The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14
In 1999, I had made such a mess of my marriage I had to resign from the church I had led for thirteen years and dedicate my days to reconciling with my wife. I packed up my young family, moved to the Pacific Northwest where a little church provided us a place to live, and me a job. That job was tearing down a condemned house for $10 per hour. An old lady had lived in the house for decades with about eighteen cats.
Tearing down the condemned house was a metaphor for my life. I had spent years building a resume, reputation, and career as a trustworthy man. But because of my arrogance, neglect, and selfishness, I had seen my life abandoned and condemned.
Back to the cat lady’s little yellow house—I had already dismantled and hauled off all of the outlying buildings, porch and knocked down many of the non-load-bearing walls—it was time to go after the bathroom. The vanity came out without much resistance, the sink as well. The only thing left was the tub and the toilet. I decided to deal with the toilet first.
I removed the upper tank and carried it out and threw it into my truck to take to the dump. I unbolted the bowl from the floor, but it wouldn’t release. I pushed and pulled all to no avail. Finally, I wrapped my arms around the cold, slick, and disgusting bowl and heaved with all my strength. It wouldn’t budge. I was frustrated, sad, and ashamed of myself.
I remembered that only two months before I was on the board of trustees of a major Christian organization. I was a former president of my denomination in the state of Colorado. I was well-respected and admired and successful in almost every way.
But on this cold, gray, November day in the Northwest, I was trying to tear a toilet out of an old cat lady’s house. I remember wondering, “How many times had the cat lady sat on this seat I was hugging?” I fell back against the bathtub with the sharp smell of that bathroom piercing my nostrils and began to weep, “Oh, God how did I get here?”
And louder than an audible voice I heard the Father say, “You are with Me and WE are going to be just fine.”
My chest heaved with sobs of pain and unmitigated joy. God was with me on the floor of the cat lady’s bathroom. I mattered to him.
“Okay,” I said.
I got off that bathroom floor, cleaned myself up, went over to the house where my wife was preparing lunch, gave her a kiss, and went back and took a sledgehammer to that toilet. That began a sacred journey to discover the Kingdom of God within me.
Along this journey, I discovered that if I don’t pay attention to my interior life and build a strong soul-infrastructure, my life will never be able to sustain the weight of my exterior life and I will either implode again or I will lead a life of quiet desperation.
I certainly won’t live a life of abundance that Jesus talked about. Last month my wife and I celebrated 37 years of marriage and I am living the life I could never imagine twenty years ago.
Thanks be to God he didn’t abandon me, but rather led me to the place where I could find him, my wife, and my true self in the mess of my life.
Here is a verse that has encouraged me and perhaps it will you.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
No mess is too messy for God.
Not mine. Not even yours.