“We have a leak!”
Those are frightening words to hear if you live near or work in a facility that produces or stores hazardous material. They can be just as frightening, dreadful and troublesome when the leak is not hazardous and not in a nearby plant, but in your home.
“We have a leak! I can hear it.”
The first response in any crisis situation comes from a well-prepared public relations department. I can do this in my sleep, which is good because I was still half asleep at the time. “No, you must be mistaken.”
“No, we have a leak.”
“Are you sure? Maybe it just sounds like a leak.”
“It is a leak!”
“Can you see it? If you can’t see it, you can’t be sure that it is a leak.”
“Get out of bed and see for yourself!”
“Well, if it is a leak and we don’t yet know that it is, maybe it is not a very bad leak.”
“Get in here!”
The time for public relations is done. It is time to get some boots on the ground and do a little reconnaissance.
So there I am standing in the bathroom that I have spent the better part of my life remodeling, or so it seems, and I hear it in all of its frightening, dreadful, troublesome fury. It is not a leak; it is a deafening cascade. It is a torrent of water rushing from the confines of a copper pipe to the sweet liberty of the wall behind my new shower and ultimately to the ground beneath my house.
I need a chaplain. I am spiritually distressed. I hear water dripping, but how do I get to it? Not through any of the freshly painted walls in this room, I can promise you that! Through the bedroom, up the hall and into the other bathroom, I am looking at the wall that is shared with the bathroom that I just left. Looking down, I see wet wall board. We have found our entry point.
After removing a sink, a bathroom countertop and a 2-foot by 8-foot section of wall board, I am looking at the water pipes that supply my shower. There is the leak.
It is time to go to the home improvement store. Getting the items I need to fix the leak should be no problem. Talking to the man with the gentle voice in the plumbing aisle, I wonder out loud if I should buy a pipe cutter, fearing that I might not be able to locate the one that I already have. He discourages me saying that a pipe cutter will add six or seven dollars to my bill. For some reason, I let his frugal urgings keep me from purchasing the pipe cutter. Even as I leave the store without it, I know that I am making a big mistake. I know that I will not be able to find it, but I drive all the way home to prove my point. Then I go back to the store to buy a pipe cutter. After that, the repair is easily accomplished.
I did not like having to buy a tool that I knew I already possessed. Having a tool and not knowing its location is frustrating. Having a tool and not knowing how to use it is also frustrating. That happened to me the first time that I used a pipe cutter and it made the job more difficult than it should have been.
As we journey toward Jerusalem during this Lenten season, we face a similar problem, though in a spiritual way. Calvary is not a tool, not something that we can hold in our hand and manipulate. It is a gift—a life-changing gift. What God did in Christ makes it possible for us to be in the most profound of relationships. In Christ, God brings us into God’s family. We become sons and daughters of God, children of God, in a way that we were not before Christ, before Calvary, before Easter.
A lifetime is not enough time to experience the mystery and wonder of this gift. Yet, too often we go in the other direction. We are content to store this amazing gift in the garages and utility rooms of our lives. When emergencies arise, we go looking for it. If we are fortunate, we find it in the last place we left it. Looking back, we remember something exciting and fresh, an encounter with God. But having left it in the corners of our lives gathering dust, it does not seem to fit where we are now.
The relationship that God wants with each of us is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, everyday experience. Often times we hear people talking about what they are giving up for Lent. I wonder if we might not be better served if we took a different approach. What if we added something for Lent? What if each day for just a few minutes, we took the time to ponder the wonders of this thing that God has done for us?
Ed Sunday-Winters is senior pastor of Ball Camp Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. He blogs at Just Words.
Ed Sunday-Winters is pastor of Greensboro United Church of Christ in Greensboro, Vermont.