I remember the first time I unclogged our shower drain. I used a flathead screwdriver to loosen the drain cover, stuck a long yellow stick with “teeth” on it into the pipe, and pulled out loads of hair and nasty gunk I don’t want to think about.
And I was SOOO excited!
Yes, it was nice to shower without wading in nasty, standing water, but that wasn’t what excited me. What excited me was the fact that I did it! Me, by myself!!!
By that time, my husband had been gone a few years, and I was learning I could do things I hadn’t thought possible. I was learning that things I thought I needed him for, weren’t so hard after all.
Did I love cleaning the drain? Not at all, but there was pride and joy and exhilaration knowing I could do it when I needed to.
It made me wonder what else I was capable of.
Over the years, I’d find many things I never thought I could do that I can actually do pretty well! Did I always love doing them? Again, no, not at all! But I loved knowing I could do them! I was not helpless or hopeless or and maybe not worthless after all!
I kept adding to what I can do. I grew stronger and more confident in just about every way.
Yes, I took a long time to do jobs many men can do quickly. Yes, I sometimes got frustrated, angry, and tearful. Yes, I sometimes talked to (and bit back cuss words for) the men on YouTube who didn’t know how much I relied on their videos to teach me all sorts of home repairs.
I was no Al from Home Improvement, but I was thrilled with my accomplishments. I began to think I could do almost anything if I just worked hard enough, so when I had an unexpectedly free weekend, I decided to tackle a bunch of small home improvement projects I’d been putting off.
- I painted our front door.
- I replaced the toilet handle.
- I replaced the entire pump thingy that goes in the toilet tank.
- I screwed a faucet handle back on.
- I took down our 1970’s doorbell.
I whipped through projects and felt such happiness knowing I would not be embarrassed by that aspect of our home anymore.
The Faucet of Adversity
The crown of my weekend list was to replace the kitchen faucet! Our squirter thing had broken off and the faucet hose part that comes out to act as a sprayer had stopped retracting a while ago. It was an ugly, hard to use, and less than sanitary eyesore. It needed to be taken out and a new faucet needed to be installed.
Surely I could do that!
I bought a faucet kit and got to work. I pulled out everything I stored under the sink, amazing my boys. I put down a towel, lay on my back, and inched my way into the cabinet to unscrew the what-do-you-call-thems under the sink. I turned off the water, disconnected the hoses, and removed the other things. I had hours left in the day and felt pretty good!
Then I hit a wall.
Or rather I hit a nut in a super tight space. That nut Would. NOT. BUDGE!!!
I was not defeated though! I worked and worked and kept at it. My 23 year old son came home to find me under the sink chatting with God and our plumbing. He graciously offered to do the job for me, and I happily took him up on his offer. It soon became apparent though that the space was just too small and the nut was too rounded to remove with the tools we had.
Off to our local hardware store I went. I LOVE our hardware store. The woman who owns it is wonderful, and everyone is always so helpful! I left the store with a new tool in hand.
Except when I got home, I still could not budge that darn nut.
My 21 year old son came home. He’s a construction guy so he climbed under the sink and had a go at it.
I decided it was not the right tool for the job. I liked it, but it wasn’t gripping the nut right. Back to the store I went, back to humbly and laughingly try to describe the thingamajig I needed to yet another gracious sales clerk. Unlike the last clerk, who was nice and knowledgable, I was certain this older male clerk had the plumbing experience I needed to get me the right equipment.
I again left confident I’d get the job done.
At home, I slid backwards under the sink and began to unscrew the nut. The water connector things were in my way as was the remaining hose. When I’d mentioned this to the clerk he had looked at me oddly and asked why I hadn’t just broken them off since they were being removed anyway. I didn’t have a good answer other than I am reluctant to break something on purpose. As I lay under the disassembled sink my reluctance waned. I am not sure if it was his common sense or my aggravation that caused me to snap off the remaining sink pipes and cut through the faucet hose, but they quickly disappeared.
The area was cleared. I was sure I’d turn that nut now.
And so I lay on my back for hours on that Saturday and again for several hours on Sunday, our day of rest.
I wish I could tell you I eventually got it, but I did not.
Lessons from a Stuck Nut
As my 13 year old and I held hands and prayed over dinner that night, instead of thanking God for my new kitchen faucet, I thanked Him for the patience and humility that comes from knowing I cannot do everything myself.
Sometimes I need to call for help.
The next morning I texted a plumber who does great work and is a really good guy. I asked him if he could replace our kitchen faucet. He let me know he’d be there in a week or so.
I did not tell him, I had played plumber thinking I could do his job. I did not tell him, my positivity had left us with no kitchen sink until he could come and rescue us. I did not tell him how close I come every morning to making a huge mess by throwing dirty cereal water down the drain (which I’d accidentally disconnected too!).
And so for the next week, I bought gallons of water for cooking and drinking. I used paper plates and let our dirty dishes sit in the dishwasher until they smelled so bad something needed to be done. I scrubbed our bathtub and took a clean bin and rinsed the dishes there until I could get the dishwasher up and running again. I leaned over the tub thinking of how much easier it would have been to just call for help in the first place.
I also wondered how I’d explain to him my disassembled kitchen!
In the end I had to work when he came so I made my poor mother tell him of my bone headedness. He handled it graciously and texted me later telling me I had made an A+ effort! Hahaha
Oh the humility!!!
Connections to Sunday’s Gospel.
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.” ~ Luke 17: 11-19.
Ten lepers approached Jesus and only one returned to give Him thanks. Abandonment, divorce, single parenting, whatever crisis you are in is not leprosy by any means. I do not imply that it is, but there are similarities in our suffering.
In crisis, friends will be lost. Some will judge. Others will not know what to say. Most will be too busy in their own messes to reach out. Add to that, we close people off tending to band together with those who have been through similar trauma assuming others will not understand. We fail to call for help.
it is lonely, isolating, painful
We cry out for help, but, like the lepers in this Gospel, we stand at a distance. We build walls to protect ourselves and others, but walls meant to keep demons out also keep demons in. Walls meant to protect us slay our hopes which would strengthen and chisel us into Warriors for Love.
When we are graciously given insight, an open door, or the grace of detachment all of which come only because of our struggle, we can be angry to have to carry an affliction needing such grace in the first place or we can do everything possible to make up for lost time or in fear of the possible impermanence of the grace we’ve been given.
We, like the lepers, forget to return to our pain and give thanks for it. We think we are owed something or that our outcomes rely solely on our efforts. We fail to count our Blessings, to consider it ALL Joy, to return to the Lord who is the Great Physician, healer of the dead, blackened limbs of lepers and of dead, blackened hearts of the lost.
We don’t realize that the only reason the keepers found Jesus was because of their leprosy.
In the same way, many of us will only come to Christ when hardships hits.
Let us give thanks, not just for the Blessings that come from the hardship, but for the hardship itself as well and let’s do it repeatedly!
As I read this week’s Gospel, I do not see ten separate lepers but one leper who has received healing ten separate times and returned to give thanks only once in those ten.
How many of us have been that leper?
Instead, our Lord calls us to a higher standard, not because He wants groveling at His feet, but because He knows the power of gratitude.
Jesus wants you to commit to do the opposite of the nine lepers. He wants you to draw close to Him and His people rather than stand at a distance. He wants you to give thanks for your struggle and for the glory that comes through it. He invites you to find grace in humility, patience in adversity, and fellowship that come from failure. He watches for moments you laugh and find the gift of humor when life seems to give you more than you can handle.
The gift of gratitude is one of our most powerful and most neglected gifts. When returning to Jesus in the Eucharist, do not hold back or keep yourself at a distance. Do not be caught up in the “Why me’s,” the idea that you are owed this gift, or are given Him by your own power. Instead draw close to Him with a humble, reverent, grateful heart.
Give thanks even for your adversities.
It turns out the nut was not just stuck in a tight space. For some unfathomable reason, it had been welded to the underside of the sink. Knowing how hard I worked to get that dang nut off, makes me laugh at how hard someone must have worked to take a mini blowtorch under my cabinet to put that not on. I wonder what the heck they were thinking and am grateful our entire house wasn’t leveled when they did so.
This Sunday, as I receive the Christ, I will be gratefully laughing with my Lord and praying for whoever it was who welded that dang nut to the underside of my sink.
I will be grateful for the lessons I learned in accepting what I cannot do.
I pray you are grateful for whatever humbling experience you find yourself in too.
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4 thoughts on “Gratitude for Clogged Drains & Leprosy”
I can remember so well the first time I unclogged the shower by myself after my husband abandoned me pregnant with two other babies at home. It was such a great feeling of HOPE in the midst of it all! It was just as you described. This was six years ago but it feels like yesterday. Thank you
Emily, it is so amazing how something so little (and so gross!!!) can fill us with such triumph isn’t it? I’m glad you experienced that HOPE too and that you shared it with me. It helps me know I’m not the only one celebrating the gunk in my sink (and in my life!) now! Lol. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
I really enjoyed your essay today. I have a lot of pride and I am reluctant to call in for assistance.
Mary, I hear you on this. Pray for detachment. Ask the Lord to lift the burden of pride from you. I’d also urge you to do something humbling each day. Start by asking for help with small things that you can do yourself. Many times you will give others joy knowing they can do something to help. I am starting a challenge/coaching program soon and humility will be one of the cornerstones of strengthening ourselves.I’d love to have you be part of the trial run if you are interested. 🙂
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