Jane M. Phinney | Feb. 17, 2020
It was the evening of May 9, 2019. I breathed a sigh of relief after concluding that some obstacles, evident in the first half of the year, appeared to have been resolved. It felt like we were in a better place, overall. “This is great, Lord! I can finally see my way clear to complete some l-o-n-g overdue house projects this summer.” I settled into the recliner with a good book. It had been raining nonstop for a few days and, although it was a sloppy mess outside, I enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof. Before turning out the lights at midnight, I had an unction to check our basement. That’s when life turned upside down & all my intended plans were washed away.
I discovered our basement was literally taking in water because of the increased water table. Seepage cracks, not evident to the human eye prior to this rain, were quickly allowing water to cover our floor. Now to some midwestern folks, flooding basements is a seasonal thing, not considered a big deal. They don’t use this space for daily living. But we do. Our ministry office, with thousands of dollars of equipment, is housed “below.” So, for us, this was a crisis! I quickly woke up my honey, who proceeded to shop vac the floors every 20 minutes for 6 hours straight, trying to keep the water levels from damaging items…most irreplaceable. My daughter & I swept other water toward the trenches that led to the sump pump. By the next morning, we secured help in moving out lower level books & furniture to the garage. Our next crisis was the sump pump breaking, necessitating the water being hauled up the stairs in buckets, as quickly as possible.
Long saga short, our basement flooded 3 times through June, drying out for only a few days between the breaks in rain. Because we had to wait for the water table to recede before repairs could begin, most of life was interrupted, & physically changed, by reorganizing what was housed in the basement. I’m thankful to say, that we completed the 3-step process of repairing the floors on August 30. But because of the timing, it was likely one of my most externally frustrating experiences to date!
The night I watched the water ooze through the concrete I felt like I was watching some sort of bad dream. I instantly thought, “Wow! We aren’t in control of this. We’re at God’s mercy.” As the days went on, we heard story after story of countless folks-- far, far worse off than we were. Based on how I felt, I couldn’t fathom losing it all or having to be rescued. Or worst of all, losing someone I loved. For a time, it just felt never-ending. We ran 2 dehumidifiers & 4 fans round the clock for 30 days. The messes greeted me every morning & tucked me into bed at night. I felt hemmed in, cocooned,as it were. And I couldn’t get out—in my soul.
I assume you, too, have had times in your life when you feel like you can barely keep up...like you’re hanging on by a thread. Somedays the only thing you know to do is to put one foot in front of the other. Other folks might not even notice what’s happening. The “underground” issues aren’t seen from the outside. But you know it because you feel it suffocating your soul. To top it off, you’re physically tired & sometimes get angry when there appears to be no end in sight. That was me, during the laborious process of repair…grinding out seepage cracks, mixing & filling with quikset, putting on a rubberized coating, waiting the curing time & then, finally, painting. These bodies didn’t fare as well as in years past.
Internally, God was working a kind of spiritual “metamorphosis” in my soul, urging me to keep enduring until the end. Being the hands-on learner that I am, I paralleled the state of the basement to flooding messes in our souls & in our relationships. The seepage cracks appear under pressure. We don’t see them initially, because the smooth paint coats our floors...our external performing habits. Our “cracks” don’t surface until we’re under duress of some sort. Just as we had to dig out, & fill, the cracks in the basement, God exposes breaks in relationships--with Him &/or others. He digs out the old, throws it as far as the east is from the west, & offers us something that will heal us for eternity…the very life of Christ. For our purposes, let’s say that He “rubberizes” us, with His Spirit & seals us in Him. The old is no longer part of us & is replaced with the new. Jesus’ resurrected life confirmed His victory over sin & death. This victory is like the final coat of paint on the floor, coating our redeemed lives to make us complete, better than we ever were before. I remember how the basement looked, & smelled, at its worst. But when I enjoy the end results of the transformation, that old memory makes me appreciate the new look even more. Had I not experienced it myself, I might not have believed it! The same holds true for our new life in Christ.
I wrote the following in my journal: “Father, we are weak & tired & worn out. Please accomplish the trench patching, rubber coat, & new paint seal…completely by Your order (not chaos), wisdom & power. Only You can do this in our basement. We don’t have the strength. Only you can do this in our relationships. We cannot fix this. We have no expertise or power for either situation. Take our hand, lead us, help us stand in Your victory. In the messy basement—flooded by water. In our messy relationships—flooded by selfishness.”
Hebrews 10:35 & 36 spoke both conviction & encouragement to me, specifically in the month of August. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” We should consider 2 things when embracing the promise of these verses. 1) Our confidence is based only on the shed blood of Christ. (vs19) This isn’t something we are able to build in ourselves. The only thing we produce on our own is pride…an attitude God opposes. 2) To endure means far more than hanging in there until something external is finished. The Greek defines endurance as “to remain under, to sustain a load of miseries, adversities, provocations, & persecutions in faith & patience; patience toward things & circumstances, as well as longsuffering, which is patience toward people.” External trials served God’s purposes to encourage me in matters of the heart…in staying the course with all sorts of people in all sorts of situations… not always a pleasant experience in the wait for Him to work. And that’s also true in His working in me. “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.” (C.S. Lewis)