Do YOU have a clogged drain?

If you or anyone in your house has long hair, you’ve no doubt encountered clog drains at some point. That hair just wraps around, coiled and unmoving, until no water can pass through at all.

Sometimes a bottle of Drano will help. Sometimes you have to call the plumber. But somebody or something has to get in there and unclog that drain.

Between my long hair and my husband’s almost-as-long beard, we are no strangers to pulling out wads of hair in sink and tub drains.

But the mess I just unclogged wasn’t in my bathroom at all; it was in my heart.

A spiritual clog is ten times worse than a physical one.

I knew there was a battle. I’d even written about it. Car repairs, a needed floor repair, health issues….it seemed like the more that went wrong, the less I turned to God.

Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

But I’m a control freak. Ask anyone; they’ll tell you.

The problem with being a control freak is that you don’t leave much room in your life for God to operate.

When you don’t allow God to operate in YOUR life, He can’t use you in others’ lives.

My husband would ask me, “When are you going to write again?” I’d get frustrated with him. Didn’t he understand? I WANTED to write but had nothing to say. My well was dry.

It was all because of that clog.

Sure, I’d pray. And that still, small voice would gently remind me. You’ve got to let go.

But I couldn’t. Or rather, I wouldn’t.

I’m not sure that I ever made a conscious decision to let go. What I did was I got up, I stopped hiding out from the world, and I became obedient. I visited, I ministered, I shared with those I came in touch with. Little by little, I felt myself letting go. There’s nothing like ministering to others to put your own problems in perspective.

It was as if a bottle of Liquid Plumber had been poured into my heart and unclogged the drain that had been choking the very life out of me.

And just like a real drain, the water became flowing through.

The words I’ve written this week have flowed freely. They’ve bubbled up from inside me and I pray that with each devotion, each blog post, and each chapter the Lord is able to use my words to reach someone else.

I also pray that He helps me keep that need for control in check.

Of all my shortcomings, it’s the one that gets me in trouble the most.

God: I was looking at you…

I heard a preacher tell a story once of an argument he’d gotten into with his wife. It had gotten heated and voices were raised. In a fit of anger he turned to the Lord.

“Do you see how she’s acting?” he demanded.

“No,” the Lord calmly replied. “I was looking at you.”

Talk about being hit between the eyes. It sounds like he got a needed wake-up call.

But before I laugh at his comeuppance; I must look at my own.

I’ve had the EXACT SAME CONVERSATION with the Lord a time or two.

Well, maybe not exactly the same. He tends to be a little gentler with me, knowing that I wear my heart on my sleeve.

He never wants to humiliate or destroy you in His chastisement.

I’d be upset with my husband over something, knowing he was wrong and wanting the Lord to handle it. I knew where I was wrong; who needed to address that? I needed him to see where HE was wrong.

“Okay, Lord,” I’d say. “Can you show him where he’s wrong? And make him feel bad too because he really hurt my feelings.” (I’m embarrassed to admit I used to ask this last part often!)

“Okay,” the Lord would reply. (Have you ever noticed He often talks to us like we talk to Him?) “But,” He continued very softly and gently, “what about YOU?”

That’s all He needed to say before I realized that He would deal with my husband in His own way but it wasn’t a conversation I’d be a part of. He wanted to deal with me about ME.

God isn’t interested in you pointing the flaws of your neighbor or your spouse or even your boss. He wants to help draw out the flaws in YOU so that you may be made more perfect, more like Him every day.

 

I remember saying “Yes, sir” through clenched teeth so often I should’ve developed bruxism. My reply to the Lord would be different.

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If you grew up in the South you know that saying “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir” is more important than eating your vegetables. It’s a non-negotiable way of life down here.

Growing up in the 70’s was no exception. Play until the streetlights come on. Keep spare change available for the ice cream truck. Share with your siblings. And always, ALWAYS answer a grown-up properly with ma’am or sir.

The rules didn’t change in the 80’s when I swapped streetlights for car lights. Which I dimmed, by the way, when I pulled into the driveway after curfew. Apparently, my brilliant 16-year old self didn’t realize my parents could HEAR too as the blasting radio heralded my late return as I turned off of Texas Avenue, the defiant strains of heavy metal cutting through the stillness of our quiet suburban street.

Those were challenging times and they led to some brutal stand-offs between my father and me.

My dad was a big fan of those big yellow legal pads. He used them for everything, particularly for listing my misdeeds. No ordinary paper could handle such a task, I suppose.

After reading off my charges, he flipped that top yellow page over and presented a contract. It listed the consequences for my crimes, things like having to babysit my sister (for fighting with her while Mom was on the phone) and missing a friend’s party (for sneaking out of the house the week before). You name the offense, it had a repercussion.

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the time,” he’d say. “This is a result of choices. You made some bad ones.” “These are called consequences.” The euphemisms are still stuck in my head today. He only need say the word CONSEQUENCES  and we can still hear the lecture in its entirety in our heads today.

At the bottom of each page were two lines. One for his signature and one for mine.

By signing, you acknowledged the charges and agreed with the terms of punishment.

Not signing wasn’t an option. I discovered that late one summer afternoon. I think it was the last time I saw the sun that year.

But the signature alone wasn’t enough. No Siree Bob, there was more. After the contract was signed, your verbal commitment was required as well.

“Do you understand this contract and agree to follow it?”

It was, in fact, a rhetorical question because he was not interested in my answer, only the proper response.

If you said no, there were plenty of pages left in that yellow pad for additional consequences.

If you shrugged, you had to sit back down and listen to a sermon on respect.

You couldn’t even just say yes, because that was completely unacceptable.

It was “Yes, sir.” That was the one and only ticket out of the conversation. It was an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, a commitment to improve, and a sign of respect all wrapped up in two syllables.

When you’re a headstrong teenager whose social life had just come to a grinding halt, respect for your warden is the last thing you feel.

So I tried to get around it.

Dad: “I said, do you understand?”

Me: “Yes.”

Dad: “Yes, what?”

Me: (knowing full well what the “what” was) “Yes, I understand.”

Dad: “Let’s try this again…”

One such stand-off lasted an entire 45 minutes. I’ll give the Warden this: he never budged.

Eventually, through clenched teeth, I’d say “Yes, sir” and often left with several additional yellow pages in hand.

I’d almost forgotten those days until I was washing dishes last week and talking with the Lord.

My husband had gone to a neighboring town to lead a Pastor’s Bible study and I went to run a few errands. He’d forgotten to leave some money so as the morning wore on, I dipped farther and farther into my mad money.

My mom taught me about mad money when I was a little girl. “A woman should always have a little money put back for a rainy day when she needs a little pick-me-up like a new lipstick or to get her hair done.” Over the years I’ve stashed anything from $10 bills to crisp $100s in secret compartments of my wallet.

But this day I’d emptied my reserves out on things like laundry detergent and stamps, hardly the pick-me-up of my dreams. I knew nail money wasn’t in the budget and I’d been looking forward to making a little mad withdrawal for a pedicure at the end of the week.

“All my hidden money is gone,” I whined to the Lord. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t truly upset and I was joking around.

His response sobered me up immediately.

“At this point in your life, you don’t need ANYTHING that’s hidden.”

Before I even realized it, the words were audibly flying out of my mouth.

“Yes, sir.”

If only I’d been so obedient as a teenager.