Broken, Vulnerable, and Restored
By Micky Wolf
Out for a morning walk in the neighborhood, I paused, turning the last corner before home. An all too familiar sight greeted me—the top of two hard hats and considerable banging and groaning beneath the street line—a distinct reminder of our own recent water adventures.
That day began in typical fashion as I made my way to the end of the drive to retrieve the newspaper. Gurgle, gurgle. What? Then I saw it—a clear stream of water meandering from our mailbox to well down the street. Upon further investigation I discovered a cluster of bubbly spurts and gurgles. Aware water often finds the point of least resistance, it seemed clear the source of the ever-widening river was beneath the surface of the street. Not a good sign.
Hurrying back into the house, I quickly checked the basement. Thankfully, everything was dry. Within twenty minutes of a phone call, a small army of helpers began arriving in force. Gesturing to one another and pointing at the ground they seemed to be developing a plan. Eventually, the man in charge walked up to me.
“You the home owner?” he asked.
“Yes, and this doesn’t look good,” I answered.
“Nope, you’re right. We’ve got a break, probably in the main line that runs the length of the street. We’re going to start digging shortly so you might want to draw some water. Don’t know how long this is going to take.”
After filling several containers, I returned to the curb. The man in the backhoe had broken through the hard asphalt and was now bringing up large bites of soil and rock. Having placed road blocks at either end of the street they were quickly turning what had once been a smooth surface into an increasingly gaping hole. Dust swirled over everything. Undeterred by all the banging and pounding, they simply communicated with one another using hand signals or a nod of the head.
Needing to leave for an appointment, I asked if they needed anything. Assuring me they were fine, I left with high hopes they would be finished when I returned a couple of hours later. Not to be. Pulling in the drive I could tell they likely had gone to lunch, leaving behind an abyss about twelve feet long, ten feet wide and at least eight feet deep. Glancing down I noticed the water line in question—rather than one continuous pipe, a section about three feet long had been removed and lay to the side. One end was jagged, probably the point of rupture; the other end freshly cut and shiny. An engine puffing clouds of light blue smoke sat on the street, chugging away as it inhaled thick brown slurry into a long hose, expelling it out of harm’s way on the ground above the hole.
Returning from their break, the workers got busy once again. I was sitting at my desk which happened to overlook the activity when suddenly the screeching sound of metal on metal jolted me to attention. Looking outside, I groaned. A smaller backhoe was now positioned next to our mailbox, digging away to clear space around the protective cover for the shutoff valve for the main line to our house. Relentlessly hacking away at more soil and rocks, it was only a matter of minutes before a second hole about two-thirds the size of the first one was opened up in our front lawn.
It was well into the afternoon and despite their best efforts it seemed that digging and uprooting were winning out over repairing and replacing. Ugh. Determined to finish my project, I tried to redirect my attention to the books and papers in front of me. Now things were much too quiet; time for a walk to see what’s going on. Approaching the holes, I noticed one of the workers pacing. Seeing me, he quickly came over to where I was standing.
“Dang, I’ve never run into so many rocks—some of these are huge!” He spread his arms a couple feet apart. “Oh, by the way, sorry this is taking so long but while we’ve got this opened up I want to replace your old plastic line with copper—looks like the original and it’s only a matter of time before it goes too.”
“Sounds like you’ve got your hands full—literally,” I said, looking into the hole. At the bottom, the hunched figure of another worker, splattered with mud and knee deep in dirty water, hands tightly wrapped around the old pipe, obviously had his own struggles. “I’m trying to get the new one to feed through!” he yelled, not bothering to look up. It was taking every ounce of his strength to keep things steady; the old pipe, the connector with the replacement pipe attached, and the pressure being exerted by a second engine chugging away to push the configuration of lines through a small opening no larger than a couple of inches.
“Jeez, I better turn down the pressure, or we’ll lose it,” the man next to me barked. “Boy, I don’t know—gotta lot of obstacles with this one that’s for sure,” he added, shaking his head as he made an adjustment on the machine.
Sensing everyone’s growing frustration and weariness, I said a prayer. ‘Lord, you can remove any obstacle that’s in the way, whether it’s in a person or in that stony ground. Please, we need you to make a way.’
Slowly but surely things began to improve. Within a couple of hours they had achieved success on all fronts. Smiles and pats on the back began to replace the frowns and mumblings of earlier in the day as they went about gathering tools and shutting down equipment. Welcome indeed were the popping and gurgling sounds of air and fresh water rumbling through the pipes in the house.
“Boy oh boy, thought for awhile we would never get everything working right again,” one of the men sighed, pointing toward the piece of jagged pipe as it was loaded on to a truck.
“Well, believe me everyone on this street thanks you for your perseverance!” I said, grateful for all their sweat and effort.
“Yeah, well, that’s our job—although you better love digging stuff up and putting it back together,” he said, a slight grin coming across his face. “And it’s not over yet—we got another job to get to as soon as we’re finished here. Definitely been one of those days.” He started toward his truck then hesitated. “Be sure to give us a call if you have any more problems!”
“Well, sir, that’s a phone call I hope I don’t have to make anytime soon.” Both of us were smiling now.
Bubbling, gurgling and spiritual metaphors…
I thought the day was about broken water lines and holes in the ground, but as I relaxed in my chair later, I heard the Lord’s exhortation to ponder the events in a different light.
‘Symptoms’ of our human brokenness often initially appear as subtle signs something is amiss. What may be troubling us in the depths of our heart is unseen to the human eye or ear, until the unrelenting pressure forces our pain, suffering or discontent to the surface. What do we do when we see or hear those signs? Turn away from self or others, hoping nothing is wrong? Or do we stop, listen, observe and then act with boldness and compassion? Leaking water was clearly indicative something underground needed attention and the only way that was going to happen was to dig a hole and get to the root of the problem. [1Samuel 10:7; Psalm 65:8]
Reporting the problem, anticipating resolution…
When we take the time to acknowledge and accept something is amiss, God invites us to make a report and receive the help He sends. In a lot of ways it is much easier to report a broken water line than make a plea to God to mend our broken heart. Or help us reconcile a relationship. Or forgive us for being unkind to a spouse or friend. It is helpful to remember our God is loving and compassionate. He longs to answer our every petition in the way He knows best. So what holds us back at times? Why is it so difficult to ask? And what happens when the workmen and tools He provides are, in our estimation, not exactly who or what we had hoped for? Everyone on site that day had a specific job to do. In the midst of distractions and detours, they were successful because they worked together. Each one was proficient in carrying out his particular responsibility. That required making a pretty big mess before things could be restored to working order. No wonder we hesitate sometimes if we have had any experience at all of seeing God in action. His best work is often carried out in the messiest and most disorienting of life circumstances. [2 Kings 12:5; Acts 26:18; Hebrews 4:16]
Doesn’t look good, a lot of obstacles…
In order to make needed repairs, it was necessary for the broken places to be exposed to the light and to the hands of the workmen, an experience that was neither convenient nor pretty. And to compound the difficulties of the situation, numerous obstacles stood in the way of ‘the new’ being put into place.
There’s not much difference in repairing us in our human brokenness. In order to be restored to wholeness, our wounds and broken places need to be brought into the light. In spite of what we might think or feel, God most often allows this exposure to occur in a manner respectful and sensitive to the individual person.
Interestingly enough, when the work on the old water line was the most challenging and intense, there were only two, maybe three workers on site. One was in the hole, another was operating machinery, and the third moved calmly about making sure everyone had what they needed. Such is God’s handiwork; He doesn’t allow the obstacles of our human resistance or ignorance [whether we are the one in need of repair or are serving others] to deter Him from His commitment to finishing what He begins. [Matthew 7:25; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:13]
Repair and the disruption that restores…
The fallout from the ruptured water line and the repair work that followed affected nearly everyone on the street that day. Furthermore, when it became necessary to shut off the flow in order to do what needed to be done, even more people were impacted. So it is with our need for restoration. Surrendering to the process of allowing our brokenness to be repaired that we may be brought to wholeness often impacts those around us. But here’s the best news—our Lord is available, ready and willing to come to our rescue. Sometimes we call out for help, other times, the plea for aid will come from someone aware of our circumstances. Often it takes little more than a whisper to get God’s immediate and compassionate attention.
May we remember to not resist asking Him for help at the first sign something is amiss, that we persevere as He brings our broken places into the light, and that we trust not a single disruption will thwart His loving presence in our life. [1 Peter 5:10; Philippians 2:13]