Just inside my back door is a two-by-three-foot section of the kitchen floor where the tiles have come off. These tiles are the old-fashioned brick variety: flat red, charming, and very fragile. Some of the tiles in the center of the floor are cracked, but they are locked tightly into the symmetry of neighboring tiles and refuse to come out. Only the ones by the back door, on the edge of the flooring, are susceptible to breaking away. They have one edge exposed, very vulnerable to a variety of everyday kitchen and back-door hazards, from high heels to rolling appliances.
We have lived in this house for three years, and during this time the section of red-brick fatalities has widened by three rows. I say "rows" because that is the way it happens . . . one tile in the middle of an exposed row breaks loose and leaves its neighbors with two sides open to attack. Each subsequent casualty leaves its neighbors thus exposed until the whole row is gone. It's a domino effect: once the row starts to go, it's only a few days before all the tiles have fallen out of rank.
So far we're five rows down and holding.
I had a dream last night. Over half the floor was gone. I think this would qualify for an adult "nightmare" the eroding away of something I thought was permanent. My childhood version of this same dream was to lose my teeth the permanent ones. I rushed downstairs in the pre-dawn darkness to find my kitchen floor unchanged: five rows down and still holding.
But the dream is much closer to reality than I would like to admit. I feel that much of my life is coming loose.
Take, for instance, the idea that God is on my side, that He isn't going to let any harm touch me, that He, in fact, is my protector and rescuer from all things. If I blow it, He will always cover me. More often than not, this translates into God pulling me out of a jam. If I still think that's true, I'd better wake up to reality because that row came loose some time ago.
How about the idea that I'm special? God has bestowed on me exceptional gifts and talents for which He has big plans. Therefore I get special treatment and extra protection; I'm shielded from the ordinary burdens of life that everyone else has to deal with. Like a quarterback with weak knees, I get a strong front line. I am excused from having to be a well-rounded athlete as long as I can still throw the ball. (Oh great! Just what the world needs. A spiritual Joe Namath with the appropriate arrogance to go with it!)
I am special; God has given me unique gifts and talents. But none of these things are exclusive. When God handed out gifts and worth, He distributed them to everybody. No gift comes with any privileges and each of them comes with the responsibility to use it wisely.
So much for those rows of tiles . . .
There's also the assumption that a Christian with my history and pedigree will certainly never face such personal catastrophes as divorce, despair, isolation, abdication, or suicide. These thoughts will never even enter the mind of a noted Christian like me.
Well, look into the mirror, Fischer, and welcome yourself to the human race. Stick a pin in your finger is this anything like a nail in the hand? and what color do you bleed? Look out at the rest of the bleeding world, at the bleeding Savior.
Do you think He ever felt like this? Can you assume you never have to know the despair of being human?
Say goodbye to another row . . .
There's even Adam's curse: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat of it all the days of your life . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food" (Gen. 3:17, 19). Well, that doesn't apply to me. That's part of the old covenant. The new covenant has redeemed all that and it's been redeemed without me ever being a part of it. It's been freely placed into my hands and I don't have to earn it in any way.
Wait! What's that? Redemption from the curse happens only by accepting my responsibility to work out my salvation? That work, that pain and toil, can actually be a sacred privilege? You mean it's my responsibility to redeem all of my human activities by entering into them with the power and purpose of Christ in me? Is that what this is all about? Building my house on a rock?
Is this His voice I hear? I'm not sure because it's been so long since I've heard Him this clearly. Shhh! It is His voice! Listen. He's speaking again. (Pause) I thought that was what you said, Lord. (Sigh)
I suppose you want to know what He said. It was just a simple message. He said, "Fix the floor."
Like most of my writings, I read this one to my wife when I completed it. She was overjoyed. The kitchen floor was finally going to be fixed! But when nothing had been done by the end of the next day, she questioned me. "Why haven't you done anything about the floor yet? I figured that if God had spoken, there would be some immediate action."
"Well," I explained, "He didn't mean to actually fix the floor. I mean, there are a dozen more important things I need to get to first. The floor was just a symbol."
"Oh really?" she said in a sarcastic tone. "You mean you only write articles about these great revelations? In the meantime, who's going to fix the floor?"
Well, I'm proud to say, the floor is finally fixed. I'd like to
say it was easy and fun, but it wasn't. The adhesive securing the tiles seemed to take an eternity to set and the grout smeared; but then again, overcoming bad habits, perpetual denials, and comfortable excuses is never easy. Sometimes following the Lord is a lot like fixing the floor.
Chapter 29 || Table of Contents