A few nights ago our bathroom sink got clogged. Really badly. Some food accidentally went down the drain and nothing – I mean nothing – would unclog it. I tried, in this order: the cheap plastic “snake” you buy from the grocery store to go deep into the pipe, two bottles of Draino, a plunger (well, my Dad actually tried this one), and super-duper-high-powered drain cleaner that is “guaranteed” to break through the clog. Well, I should ask for my money back because it didn’t work. Nothing worked.
So yesterday I broke down and called the plumber. He said he’d be happy to come by today and fix it. I asked how much it would cost. He said $150.
I don’t particularly enjoy flushing $150 down the drain (literally and figuratively), so I endeavored to persevere and fix this stupid clog myself. You have to understand that I’m about as handy as a three-week-old baby, but when we’re talking $150 I’ll give it a try.
So I went to Home Depot and bought a $20 manual drain snake. And this morning I spent an hour on the bathroom floor doing everything I could to fix this problem myself and impress my wife with how handy I’ve become. An hour had passed and it wasn’t looking promising.
So I prayed: “God, you know I don’t have $150 to just give away to a plumber. I’m here on the bathroom floor, breathing in a deadly combination of three different kinds of toxic drain cleaners, wearing grocery bags and gloves over my hands to protect my flesh from melting off, I bought a manual snake drain from Home Depot, and all I need you to do is help me fix this stupid clog.”
I tried one last time to jam all fifteen feet of the manual drain snake all the way into the pipe, not allowing the resistance of the clog to sway me. Sure I was making a ton of noise and our daughter was taking her nap just one room away. I didn’t care. I had $150 on the line.
Soon the clog broke and I beheld the most glorious sight: water pouring down the sink and not backing up. I called the plumber and canceled the appointment in triumph. And yes, my wife was very impressed. After all, she’s due to have a baby any day now and it’s awfully nice to not be breathing in toxic fumes.
This all made me think about those “clogs” we face in ministry. The difficult people who never seem to change. The rut we can’t seem to get our services out of. The attendance number that just won’t budge. The congregation that doesn’t seem to ever grow in worship. Bad equipment. Low morale. Small repertoire. Repeated disappointment.
Whatever the clog is for you, the temptation for all of us is to, at some point, call the plumber. To give up. To let someone else do it. This might mean just giving up or it might mean looking for another job.
And sometimes you do just have to break down and call the plumber. But most of the time, and as was the case with me this morning, I had been given all the tools I needed to do the job if I just stuck with it long enough.
God has placed you where you are. He has given you the gifts (i.e. tools) that you have. Those clogs that you’re encountering might seem impossible to break. But what’s really the problem – the clog or your commitment to persevere?
Let me paraphrase (roughly but I hope faithfully) James 1:2-3: “Count it all joy, my worship leaders, whenever you meet clogs of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Too often we’ve got all the tools we need to do the job. But we don’t persevere. I think God clogged my bathroom sink for a reason: to encourage me and to encourage you. Get your hands dirty. You’ve been given good tools and God wants to use you to break through some stuff.