I’m standing on the roof, plumber’s snake jammed down the vent pipe. Again and again I shove the flat wire down and drag it back up. With each repetitive cycle, the stench of sewer escapes the pipe, to lodge in my nostrils and throat.
I’m not happy.
The trip up to the roof is a familiar one, this particular job needing to be repeated two or three times a year. The century-old house has pipes under it that date back nearly to its original construction.
I’ve resigned myself to doing the task; clearly, the job itself is not responsible for my unhappiness.
I wonder why I’m unhappy.
No. I don’t wonder; actually, I know.
I’m unhappy because I’m going to be happy in a minute, but unhappy again after that.
There. That’s made it perfectly clear, hasn’t it?
All right. Quick, before it happens, let me explain it.
In a minute, maybe five, there is going to be a loud gurgle, I’ll hear water sucking downward, and the whoosh of every sewer pipe in the house dumping all the dirty water it contains into the line that leads under the yard to the alley where the city system will carry it to be treated and released again.
It is exactly what I mean to accomplish.
And, almost on cue, there it goes. The rush of water is even louder than I remember it. The sweet sound of success echoes from under ground, up through the cast iron pipes to reverberate in my ears. It’s done.
The elation is almost indescribable.
I am sweating and tired, worn out from standing and laboring on the slanted shingle rooftop, but it is the moment I have been working toward from the instant I began climbing the aluminum ladder up from the ground.
What genuine joy! What relief!
The job is done! Hallelujah!
But. . .
I stand on the roof, gloved hands wrapping the twenty feet of metal snake back around the coil, and I have this nagging thought.
I’ve done exactly this before.
I slide my hand around one wrap after another, and my foul mood is back just like that. I have. I’ve done this many times before, without variation.
I’ve conquered the sewer demon over and over.
I’ll have to do it again. Someday. I’ll have to do it again.
I am unhappy.
The filthy stuff comes back. As long as we live in this old house, I’ll have to drag out the tools and send the vile stuff back where it belongs.
There is good stuff in the old house too—stuff that needs to be protected from the filthy junk. It’s worth saving. Again and again, it’s worth saving.
I’ll do it again.
I wonder. The one sheep out of the one hundred who wandered away—after he was found and returned—did he wander away again? Did he have to be found again? (Luke 15)
The woman’s lost coin—after the house had been cleaned and it turned up—did she ever lose a coin again in that house?
What about the arrogant son, the one we call the prodigal? After he came back and his dad threw a party for him—did he fall back into his old ways again? Did they throw another party for him when he returned the second time?
What about the fifth time? Or the tenth?
The filth of this fallen world encroaches time after time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have to stand up to the dirt again and again. Some times are worse than others.
There are certain sins which are only just defeated to return and tempt again in an instant. I stand firm, only to be tested in exactly the same way. Or perhaps, in a subtly different way.
Every time—every time—I rejoice and do a little victory dance inside, only to be reminded that winning the battle is not the same thing as winning the ultimate victory.
Some will say the sin nature is dead and I shouldn’t have to fight the battles again. I tell you, that never was promised to us.
We were promised that sin doesn’t rule us anymore, for we’ve been made alive to God. Temptation comes, but we have the tools to defeat the temptation. (Romans 6:14)
I don’t allow the filth to fill my house. I never will.
It doesn’t always feel that much like living in victory, but it’ll do.
It’ll do until there’s no need to use the tools anymore.
Maybe, a new house. . .
Yes. I think a new house would be nice. One with no sewer problems.
That’s coming someday, too.
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
(John 14:2-3 ~ NASB)
Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.