Dirty Deeds

The birds are chirping. The air is saturated with the smells of spring. The lawns are carpeted with luscious green. I drive through our subdivision with the windows down, enjoying the sights and sounds of a new season. All is right with the world. And then I pull into my driveway, and there it is, in the middle of my own emerald parcel of ground, a heaping mound of earth with two pieces of PVC pipe protruding like periscopes from its depths. My mood is instantly dour. I cringe inwardly. I detest the dirt.

It all began a couple of years ago when a multiple inch an hour rain storm hit our area. Our subdivision’s pumping station lost power and our basement drain backed up, causing a mess in the unfinished side of our basement. With lots of help from the guys at the church and lot of bleach water, we were none the worse for wear in a few short hours. Since they said (they, whoever they are, seem to know something about everything, and I seem to listen to them an awful lot) this was the kind of storm that happens only once in a blue moon we assumed there would be no second act. But alas, just a few months later, our area was hit with a devastating ice storm that left our town with too much water and too little electricity. The city pumping stations went down, and once again, we had a smaller, but just as menacing, mess in our basement.

In the aftermath of the ice storm of 06’ we began to do some more research. We found that there should have been a backflow valve installed in drain line of all of the homes in our neighborhood (The backflow valve is spring loaded and shuts immediately when water tries to flow from the street back toward your house). This hadn’t been done due to a litany of code changes during the construction of our subdivision. The city was now offering to install a backflow valve for the cost of material. This offer was available if accompanied by our simple signature on a document that stated that they were not responsible for the water that flowed from their lift station backwards into our basement. We decided that deal was just not one that we could accept. How dare they try to alleviate themselves from responsibility in light of such an obvious oversight on the part of their building inspectors. Subsequently, we hired a local company to install us a backflow valve, at a substantial cost. In February of 07’ they dug a small hole in our front yard, and, within a few hours, they were finished. I breathed a sigh of relief, and in the spring I reseeded the bare area. By the summer you could hardly tell there was any work done. All was good, or so we thought.

It took a full year for our new backflow valve to be tested. It failed the test. After a copious amount of rain over a period of a few days, it begins to dawn on me that I should have done some more investigation about backflow valves and their installation. I began to vaguely recall the contractor who installed our backflow valve repeatedly warning me, “Sometimes they stick open”. Well, ours had “stuck open”. We are, at this point, fit to be tied; because we do not feel confident about leaving our house anytime it might storm. We had been fortunate that up until now we had always been home and able to keep our basement’s finished portion from suffering any damage. But what if we were to be gone during a “stuck open” episode?

After much prayer and contemplation, we called the city and their backflow valve guy came out. He was a straight shooter. He said that he had installed thousands of these valves over the course of fifteen years and that he had only known of two that had failed, and that was the result of tampering. He again offered to install the backflow valve for the cost of materials. He said he should be able to install the valve out by the curb, and, as a result, do minimal damage to our yard. After completion, they would return to re-grade and reseed after a few good rains. This would give the dirt time to settle. He handed us the document we had been so indignant about two years earlier. We promptly signed it and returned it. Our problem would finally be fixed with minimal damage to our front yard and our ego.

Imagine my dismay, when I returned home one morning to find the city back hoe digging a four foot wide, by six foot long, by eight foot deep hole, in the middle of my yard. Why you ask? Because every utility known to man is buried under our grass, out near the curb. The middle of the yard was the only place they wouldn’t risk blowing up, electrocuting, flooding, or cutting the telecommunications of those who live on our street. The hours I had spent seeding and fertilizing my lawn over the past weeks were destroyed in just a few minutes worth of work by the massive piece of machinery. I watched miserably as the orange vested crew put away the shovels they had been leaning on, loaded the yard wrecker on a trailer, and drove away, promising to return after the dirt had sufficiently settled over my newly installed basement saver.

My initial reaction to the eyesore in my front yard was very typical of me-pridefulness. What will others think and say? In my mind I might as well have purchased a flashing neon sign proclaimed to all my neighbors, “DRAIN PROBLEMS FOUND HERE!” And what about the precious time and energy spent making my yard one of the greenest on the street (even if I do say so my self)? How frustrating to have wasted all of that time. But after a few days of dirt pile pity, I began to hear an eerily familiar still small voice speaking to me every time I pulled into my drive. My situation, it seems, was chock full of application.

Though I am, in the eyes of the Father, positionally perfect from the moment I accept the Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior; I am practically on a journey of sanctification towards that day when I will be glorified in His presence. I am a work in progress, with the Lord continually flushing sin out of my life, transforming me into His image. Progress on my Christian journey is often interrupted and slowed by the sewage in my life backing up into my living space. When that happens I have a few choices. I can choose to clean up after each nasty episode happens and hope that it will not happen again. I can attempt to fix the problem in way that causes as little discomfort and visible scarring as possible and still allows me some degree of dignity. Or I can go to the One who knows and created the system and can truly fix the problem. This scenario is often painful and unpleasant. To truly dig down to the depths of my problem and fix the situation correctly, a noticeable hole will be readily visible for some time to come.

When the Lord allows the stench and mess of our sin to back up into our lives in a way we cannot ignore any longer, the way in which we endeavor to correct the issue will be the difference between peace and unrest. Cleaning up the aftermath of a backed up drain will allow me no sleep when the rain again begins to pound. A valve installed that may “stick open” gives me only marginally more rest when foul weather is in the forecast. In both cases my yard still looks great, but underneath the luscious lawn lurks disaster. The Master Plumber must dig to the depths of the issue and install the valve that He knows is fool proof. If you will allow Him to do this deep work, a wonderful peace floods the soul. You know, as the crew drove away from my yard that day it began to pour buckets. I never even gave my basement a second thought. In fact, we have had several showers in the evening and night hours since the new valve was installed. I haven’t lost a wink of sleep.

Over the past few weeks, as we have been spending time out in the front of our home, a nosy neighbor or two, ones that rarely talk to us, have stopped by to make small talk, as they take their evening walks. They stall for a few minutes until they can’t stand it any longer, and then ask about our earthen monument. I chuckle inwardly and then tell them the whole story. As they hot foot it off to share their latest juicy morsel with a neighborhood news junkie, I walk back to the house. I close my garage door and enjoy the evening with my family in a home that, for a short time, does not have the curb appeal it had previously, but is free of the problem that loomed on the horizon continually.

Next summer, the PVC cleanouts will be barely visible as they peek out through the lush fescue that carpets our front lawn. Most who drive by won’t see them. Few, if any, will remember the Great Backflow Valve Incident of 08’. I will. Every time I mow around them, or trip over them while playing with my son, I will be reminded of the problem that plagued us and my thankfulness for the one who fixed it. I will be fret free when the thunder rumbles in the distance.

May you allow the One who bears the scars on His hands and His feet the freedom to wield His scalpel liberally in your life. His incision will never be larger than necessary, but it will never be smaller than necessary either. May you experience a peace that passes all understanding, even as you bear the scars of His purifying work in life.

God bless,

Mike

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