From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” a wet-n-wild little piece about disasters—house AND spiritual varieties. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)
Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
• • •
Stepping into my dark kitchen one evening after work I heard a sound I wasn’t expecting…
*squish*? I thought. Tennis shoes on tile don’t usually make that sound. *squeak* maybe or *kerplop*—but *squish*?
I made my way across the room to flip on the light switch.
That can’t be good…
And it wasn’t. With the light on I could see that the kitchen was standing in water. While barely a half-inch deep (so far), standing water of any depth in one’s home is not a good situation. Not a problem on tile floors, but…
…wood floors. Please no, I prayed silently as I set out on a tour of the rest of the house.
*squish*squish*squish* Dining room…
*squish*squish*squish* Living room…
*squish*squish*squish* Bathroom one…
*squish*squish*squish* Bedroom one…
*squish*squish* (short hallway) Bedroom two…
*squish*squish*squish* Bathroom two.
Water, water everywhere.
Since the hardwood flooring planks in the living room, dining room, and bedrooms weren’t nailed down (an impossibility with my house’s concrete slab) but were snapped together and laid on top of the concrete slab in what’s called a “floating” floor, the water had actually made its way in under the wood, doing its damage from the ground up and bubbling up through the joints in the wood planks as I stepped on them. “Floating floor” turned out to be prophetically accurate…
Having no idea what had caused this diluvian disaster, I ran outside and turned the water off at the main cut-off valve, grabbed the wet/dry vacuum, and started bailing.
After an hour of sucking up water as fast as I could and pouring I-don’t-know-how-many gallons down the tub drain, I had no less water in the floor than when I started. It was like trying to empty Lake Michigan with a shot glass. So I admitted defeat, stuffed the essentials—my Bible, a toothbrush, and some clean underwear—into a bag and hightailed it to a hotel down the street.
Thy Word is a Laugh Light Unto my Feet
As I sat in my room with a bucket of ice, a glass sanitized for my protection, and a soda from the vending machine, I found myself writing, directing, and starring in a disaster movie in my head, one where I was hopelessly adrift on a sea of chlorinated tap water, desperately clinging to a raft made from warped pieces of hardwood flooring. And once that was done, I began writing the sequel about all the wooden furniture legs, rugs, shoes, and anything else non-water-proof sitting in the floor unable to escape the deluge.
Since the longer I sat there the worse the plot of those movies became, I decided my best option was to read my Bible and just go to bed. You may recall in my previous post that I mentioned reading through the Psalms recently—this is the night I started.
One of the blessings of the Psalms is that they typically have an encouraging word for the angst-ridden child of God. That night, that perfectly described me. I decided to just start reading wherever the ribbon marker in my Bible happened to be—in this case, between Psalm 68 and Psalm 69. I started with Psalm 68, wondering if I would find a much-needed encouraging word…
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
While the *squish* was starting to feel kind of like a foe, this didn’t really speak to me, so I kept reading, eventually moving on to chapter 69.
Now, most writers will confess to taking creative license when telling a story—leaving out details that don’t really move things along or punching up the dialogue a tad for more dramatic impact. (As Lily Tomlin once said in the guise of her character, Edith Anne: “The truth can be made up if you know how.”) And right here would be the perfect place for such an embellishment—except the truth is better than anything I could ever fabricate.
I started reading Psalm 69, and there in verse 1 it said:
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I LOL-ed until I about cried. Now I know where we humans get our sense of humor. In addition to being good and gracious, the Lord delivers a killer punch line. And nothing takes the power out of worry and anxiety better than a hearty, God-given guffaw.
Opening the floodgates
SO—let me interrupt the disaster movie and the Lord’s stand-up routine for a minute and answer the question I know is running through your head (I see the raised hands): Where did all that water come from?
Answer: A pin-hole sized rupture in the water line leading to the ice maker.
“All that water came from that tiny little hole?” I asked the plumber as he was replacing the plastic line with copper.
“Oh yea—I see it all the time.”
To this day, it still amazes me that something that tiny could wreak such havoc in so short an amount of time. Actually, it shouldn’t have been that amazing—lots of major events start from really humble beginnings:
- The most devastating nuclear destruction is started by a single neutron, a particle so small as to be invisible to even the most powerful microscopes.
- A single germ or virus can send an otherwise healthy person to bed, to the doctor—or worse.
- The tiniest bit of yeast can turn plain old flour and water paste into fresh-baked deliciousness.
OK—fresh-baked bread is far from a major event (or not, depending on how much peanut butter and jelly you put on it), but it’s a great example of something tiny like yeast having a major impact.
Interestingly, yeast is often used in the Bible as a symbol of sin. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he corrects them for not dealing with the sexual immorality of one of their members. He knows that sin like that can easily spiral out of control. He tells them (underlined text and text in brackets [ ] is all mine):
Don’t you know that a little yeast [a single sinful act] works through the whole batch of dough [can have major impact]? 1 Corinthians 5:6 NIV
Seemingly insignificant choices can eventually have devastating effect. Just ask Eve—I’m sure she never imagined the repercussions that one bite of fruit salad would have.
We even give those “missteps” cutesy names (like “misstep”) to take the negative connotations out of them, names like…
- “Fib” or “little white lie”… Next thing you know they quit being little—or white.
- “Get a little creative” on your tax return one year and the next year it gets easier. Soon, you’re into some major tax fraud.
- “Innocent flirting” with an old boyfriend on Facebook first, sexting second, and a ruined marriage last.
When we think of our “missteps” as not that bad and stop listening to and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can find ourselves in a place we never intended to be. Ignore that voice long enough and after a while you just stop hearing it.
A friend once told me a story that I think perfectly illustrates this idea of the gradual progression of bad choices:
“The first time I heard a curse word on TV was on the 1970s sitcom, ‘All in the Family.’ It was a word that can be found throughout the Bible, but it was used in an un-Christian manner. When Archie Bunker uttered it, my dad—one of the finest Christian men I know—immediately popped up out of his chair and turned the TV off. ‘We’re not going to listen to that kind of language in this house,’ he declared.
“He could have just changed the channel, but the shock of having someone use that sort of language in our house—a house in which no curse word had ever been uttered—compelled him to take the only action he could imagine taking.
“Eventually, he did start changing the channel; it still made the point. One day, though—and I don’t really remember when—he didn’t change the channel. He said something like, ‘I don’t know why they have to talk like that,’ but kept watching. Soon, his response to foul language became an un-approving grunt accompanied by a shake of the head.
“As the years went by and cursing on TV became more common place, there stopped being any reaction. The same man who would have unapologetically escorted someone out of our house for using bad language let it freely pour out of the speakers on the TV. He’s still the finest Christian man I know—he just became used to it.
“Unfortunately—so did we.”
Standing idly by
Maybe this doesn’t sound like sin to you, since my friend’s dad wasn’t the one cursing. But his allowing language that wasn’t honoring to God to come into his home when he could have done something to stop it made me think of Saul—the future Apostle Paul—standing by and watching everyone else’s clothes while they stoned a Christian to death. The Bible tells us:
The witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul…And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. Acts 7:58; 8:1 NIV
Eventually, he wasn’t content to just stand by and watch…
Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:3 NIV
Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. Acts 9:1 NIV
At some point, Saul crossed the line from observer to murderer. Silence or inaction, when it’s in our power to take action, is just another way to be disobedient to the Lord. Do so long enough and one day all your beautiful hardwood floors will be gone and you’ll be walking on bare concrete.
So before you find yourself wading through the *squish* of full-on disobedience, unstop your spiritual ears, listen to the Holy Spirit, and do what He says. He’ll tell you exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.
There was a pool
Anyway, even though my response to the water damage in my house has vacillated between disaster movie and “Lord, I know you got this,” as always He’s been patient with me and my stuttering trust. And since that night I set foot in the flooded kitchen, He’s provided several blessings:
- Since my non-nailed-down floors floated on top of that layer of water, it actually kept all of the furniture legs and rugs dry long enough for me to put coasters, Tupperware lids, bowls—anything I could find—under them to keep them high and dry. No furniture was harmed in the making of my disaster movie.
- The “moisture mitigation” guys the insurance company sent to dry my house out were young and hard-working. They ripped up every piece of my warped and sopping wet wood flooring, hauled it away, and stocked my house with a regiment of fans and dehumidifiers. It felt like a sauna in here for a few days, but they did their job.
- I don’t have unlimited coverage for water damage on my homeowner’s insurance, but it was enough to pay for new floors. This time, I’m going with ceramic tile—but tile that looks like wood planks (the best of both worlds). And since I’ve never laid tile, a dear brother from church who is one of these multi-skilled guys has offered to come help me put it down. As the Bible says in John 15:13:
Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lays down a tile floor for his friend.
(It’s possible I may be misquoting that verse a little…)
- Finally, I got to stay in a hotel for a week—did I mention there was a pool?
All in all, losing all the beautiful hardwood floors I painstakingly and meticulously put down myself, piece-by-carefully-chosen-piece (forgot to mention that) is something I hope to never have to go through again. BUT…as with everything else in my post-salvation life, the Lord always seems to turn those trials into much-needed moments of growth. He kept me running to Him for comfort and direction, honed my “have faith in God” muscles, and etched Philippians 4:13 even deeper in my heart:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. NIV
Oh—and He provided incontrovertible evidence that He has a sense of humor:
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
Slays me every time…