“And, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
This last week I’ve had several opportunities to roll up my sleeves and help out those whose homes were hit hardest by the recent flood in Cherokee. Mucking basements, gutting a house; it’s hard work, but good work. It’s sad, wading through the ruins of someone else’s life; but it’s also uplifting, joining with friends to help a neighbor in need. The truly fascinating thing is what you can discover while mucking out a basement. Here are some discoveries that I have made in the last week:
I Want to Travel Light
At the first house I went to, water had filled the basement all the way up to the door to the main floor. By the time we got there, four days later, the water had receded, but the basement had to be emptied. The problem was, the basement was filled, wall to wall, with debris. Boxes of VHS tapes, bags of clothes, piles of old children’s books and toys – a lifetime of belongings coated in muck, beyond any hope for salvage. I can’t imagine the pain and heartbreak the homeowner felt, she couldn’t watch as we hauled everything in the basement to the curb for disposal – these were here memories, sacred relics of her life, each with meaning and significance; now they were unrecognizable piles of waste, ready to be hauled away.
The pastor in me, always seeing things from a Gospel angle, couldn’t help but see my own heart in the poor basement. As I was hauling water logged boxes out of the basement, the thought came to me, “Is your heart any better than all of this?” There is clutter in my heart: divisions of loyalty and love that clamor for my attention; the bitterness and resentment from hurts and heartbreaks long ago that keep me from freely loving and forgiving others; the pride and conceit that I carry with me, thinking that I am somehow better or above all the rest, immune to the problems that others face.
I want, I need, to travel light. All of this clutter in my heart, I need to let it go. All it is doing is weighing me down, keeping me from running the race that is set before me, preventing me from loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
That sort of leads me to my second point.
Grace is Found in the Least Likely Places
In amongst the flotsam and jetsam, I found a cross. A simple ordinary wooden cross, buried among the muck and destruction of that basement. Laying there among the ruins, in the shambles of a broken life, was the reminder of God’s grace and forgiveness in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
It was a surprising discovery; I never expected to find it there. But isn’t that how grace works? Grace is, after all, the unexpected and undeserved gift of God’s favor for those who could never have hoped to find it. And when you find it, when you stumble upon the surprising and surpassing greatness of God’s grace in Christ, the clutter seems to disappear, the load is lighter, and the burden is easier.
I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find God’s grace in the middle of the mess; isn’t that usually were we find it? When the night is at its darkest, we our strength is completely gone, when hope seems to fail, when we finally realize there is nothing we can do to save ourselves; that is when grace breaks through with saving power.
Remember, there is still a lot of work to be done to help those in need. For the next couple of weeks, every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday will be clean up days with various types of work to be done – from mucking out basements to demolition and reconstruction. And while the clean up will be over soon, the emotional and spiritual recovery will be with us for a while. Please keep praying for those who have lost their homes and their possessions in the flood, and asking God to show us how we can help.