Today, the Lord taught me a tremendous lesson using a clogged drain.
Over the past few weeks, our kitchen drain has gotten more and more clogged. I bought drain cleaner to use, but I prefer to use that type of cleaner when I can open the window. Since it’s been in the thirties for a while now, I waited until the weather was warm enough to do just that.
It was about two o’clock when I poured the first half of the drain cleaner bottle down the clogged drain. The cleaner sat puddled in the bottom of the sink, and I left it there with a quick prayer that it would work. I went about my work, homeschooling the kids and working on a book I’m editing.
Thirty minutes later, I checked the drain. The pool of drain cleaner was still there, so I decided to give it a bit more time. It’s happened before, so I thought that maybe it would be okay. I stopped for a moment and asked the Lord to help the drain clear out and the drain cleaner to go down. I told Him that no matter how little the problem was that I knew He was interested in it and could solve it.
After another 20 minutes or so, I came back to check the sink. The drain cleaner pool remained.
Only this time, I was getting worried. I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to clear the drain. I told Him that I knew He could do it and that nothing was impossible for Him. I went into the living room and got the kids to pray with me. We all three prayed that the Lord would help clear the drain.
I returned to the kitchen. The pool was still there. I knocked my hand against the rim of the sink, willing it to go down and praying that God would see fit to clear the drain. Suddenly a large bubble popped through the drain cleaner and the level of the puddle pooled in the bottom of the sink dropped. I smiled, feeling confident that the Lord was answering our prayers, and went off to unload the dryer and refill the washer.
When I returned, I was so happy! The sink was clear of drain cleaner, the silver finish was glistening, and the white drain pipe was white beneath the drain. I called the kids and we all told the Lord “Thank you!” together.
Then I turned on the hot water and let it run in the side of the sink that was already clear. Once it heated up, I moved it to the once-clogged sink. Water spilled down the silver surface, circled the drain, and filled the pipe below. Then it puddled in the drain.
I quickly turned off the water and tried to see if the water would go down. I thought it might be, so I added more. The water didn’t go down. It pooled in the bottom of the sink.
I turned it off, shaking my head. I’d thought it was clear. I’d thought it was over, that the Lord had answered my prayer–our prayers–and that it was going to be okay. But that’s not how it was happening.
I thought back quickly to past experiences and what I’d read on the bottle. I went over and got the rest of the bottle and poured it down the drain. After all, the directions said that if the drain didn’t clear with half a bottle to go ahead and add the rest of the bottle. I’d had that happen before, as well, so I thought I was doing the right thing.
The entire bottom of the sink was pooled with drain cleaner and water. I took a deep breath and prayed that the Lord would answer my prayer. I told Him that I knew He could open the drain, that I knew nothing was impossible for Him. And I waited.
I stood there, watching the drain. I am not sure what I thought. Maybe I thought God was going to drop everything and clear the drain just because I had prayed. Maybe I thought that I could wait and He would miraculously reveal His power to me by instantly flushing the drain. I guess the whole “bubble and drop” with the last batch of cleaner may have made me think that was really the case. I’m not really sure. But I waited there and nothing really happened. A few bubbles surfaced as brown clouds filled the pool of drain cleaner and water, but nothing else happened.
I decided that this meant it had to work for a while. I went to work on the editing I had to get done, and I tried not to think about the drain. I worked for a while, but every so often I felt the pull to get up and go check the drain. Every time, the drain was still the same. I knocked on the side of the sink, hoping it would somehow make it go down like it had before. I prayed some more.
And I began to get a bit impatient. It was nearly four o’clock, and I had dinner to make and things to do. I didn’t want to cook and clean my dinner and dishes next to a sink full of drain cleaner and water.
By the time my husband got home, I was getting a bit distraught. It had been almost an hour since I had added the second half of the drain cleaner, and I was growing more discouraged now than impatient. I told my husband the whole story, and he assured me I had done the right thing. He said we’d just have to wait for the cleaner to go down. I asked if we didn’t need to call a plumber, and he told me that the plumber would have to wait until the cleaner was out to clean out the drain anyway. I felt a little better, but I was starting to feel pretty down.
I continued to wait. I worked a little and checked a lot. I tapped the side of the sink. I opened the cabinet and tapped the pipe, hoping it might make the cleaner somehow work better or faster. I prayed, but I have to admit that I probably sounded somewhat angry. I was truly frustrated.
I talked to God. I told Him that I knew He could fix the drain, that I knew He was interested in every aspect of our lives–even little ones like drains. I prayed and prayed and asked the kids to pray. I told them that God had listened when they had prayed with me, so we prayed together again and each of the kids prayed their own prayer, too. I checked the drain, but nothing had changed.
Finally, standing there in the 45-degree breeze blowing through my open window above the sink, I decided that maybe I had been going about things the wrong way. I decided that maybe I hadn’t shown my faith. I decided that I would own the result I wanted. I prayed and told the Lord that I knew He was going to have the sink cleared by the time I started dinner, and I told Him that I believed it and was going to come back then.
I went back into the living room and started to work again. I waited another thirty minutes before I knew I needed to get dinner going. By that time, it had been almost two and a half hours since I had added the second part of the drain cleaner. I took a deep breath, stood up, and headed to the kitchen, telling myself that the drain would be clean.
But it wasn’t.
I was crushed. I begged God to clear the drain. I asked Him why He hadn’t. I began to think about the night before when I had woken up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I had read a strange passage from Kings about God giving a lying spirit permission to work against Ahab to bring him down. It had made a million questions come to mind, and even though I had dismissed them, I wondered if those questions had offended God. I wondered if I was being punished somehow.
I tapped on the side of the sink rim. I shook the countertop, trying to encourage the drain to drain. I opened the cabinet and tapped the line. I slammed on the edge of the sink. I tried and I tried, but there was nothing I could do. I was completely helpless when it came to getting rid of that giant pool of chemical-infested mess in my kitchen sink.
I walked back into the living room and told everyone that the drain wasn’t clear. I couldn’t make dinner with a sink full of poison next to the water for our food or risk it splashing on us as we cleaned our plates or used the sink. My husband asked what I wanted to do, and I said, “Cry.”
And that’s just what I did.
I went to my room and sat down on the foot of my bed and cried. Not a little tear here or there. I cried. I sobbed. I felt so disappointed that God hadn’t followed my timeline, that He hadn’t listened. I asked Him why. I told Him I was sorry for everything I had thought in my middle-of-the-night doubting the night before. I told Him I was sorry for being impatient. I begged Him to help us. I told Him how scared I was about leaving a chemical-filled sink through the night, and I pleaded with Him to help. And I cried.
When I finally got myself together, I went back into the kitchen. I stood there staring down at that stinky, chemical mess and shook my head. I really didn’t know what to do. I went to the living room and we decided to order pizza for dinner, even though it wasn’t in our budget or plans. It just made me feel better not to be cooking and washing in the sink. Then I went back to the kitchen to watch the drain.
My husband came in and we began to discuss our options. I complained that I should have called the plumber that afternoon and that if I called then we’d have to pay after-hours prices if they could come at all. I fussed that I should have checked the Internet first since the drain cleaner site said to plunge the drain first and I hadn’t done that. I worried about what we were going to do with the window open all night and the cold air pouring in, not to mention the fact that the window could easily be lifted by anyone from outside and the inserted screen panel removed. Visions of burglars and freezing winds filled my mind, pipes bursting in the frigid cold as the weight of the burglar crushed the sink, sending chemical-filled chaos throughout our home. Then it switched to my children coughing and sputtering as the poisonous fumes filled their lungs during the night if I tried to close the window to avoid the frozen pipes and burglars.
I was a wreck.
I leaned against my husband’s chest and told him I felt beaten. I felt like I was being punished. I just didn’t know what to do. He wrapped his arms around me, and told me we would figure it out. We talked about snaking the drain after dinner, even though I was worried about him doing it with a sink full of poison. He assured me that he would wash off anything that happened to get on him. I was still nervous.
I decided to pound the cabinet one more time, just to see if it would work. And, miracle of miracles, something happened. My husband stood up straight and told me that he had seen it, too. I pounded some more. I pounded and I pounded, and the drain cleared.
We high-fived and whooped and hollered. I jumped up and down a bit. I got the hot water going in the already clear sink and flushed the drain. It went down!
I called the kids and we all praised God! You want to talk about joyful? We were joyful! I was so relieved!
And then, standing there flushing that line with hot water a little at a time, I realized just what God had been showing me that day.
You see, this fall, I had a scare where the doctors thought I had two different types of cancer. Throughout, I stayed focused on God and my faith that He would get me through it. I had down times, who wouldn’t? But I stayed as positive as I could and truly held fast to my faith. I trusted God, and He got me through it. I ended up not having either type of cancer, and I was so thankful.
But today, things didn’t go quite the way I wanted. I had a plan and a timeline, but it was mine, not God’s.
His timeline was different than mine, and instead of trusting Him like I did with the big things, I got impatient… and even a bit angry. I had tried to use God as my magic button. I had tried to get Him to do what I wanted Him to do when I wanted it, but that’s not how God works. And instead of steady faith, I faltered. God was still there and He was still listening, but I needed to wait on Him rather than try to make things run on my own timeline.
I know God is just as interested in the little problems of our lives as the big ones, but I let the little problems shake me when the big ones hadn’t. I realized that faith is a constant decision. When we face big things–or little ones–it is easy to get frustrated or sad or discouraged when we think God isn’t listening or doesn’t care. It’s easy to feel like we’re being punished when things go wrong one after another (my glasses broke today, as well, not to mention dozens of other little things that made the day seem so overwhelming).
Yet, through it all, God is there. He cares for us. He is listening to us. And He will answer.
Sometimes the answer is simply, “Wait.”
If you’re having one of those days (or weeks or years–2017 was really one of those for me!) where everything is going wrong and it feels like God isn’t listening, maybe He is telling you to wait. He was telling me that today, and I wish I had listened earlier. I’m hoping that my lesson from today can help you today, too.