Years ago I worked as a pre-school teacher in a school my Mom directed. One day one of my three-year-old boy students had to use the bathroom, so I dismissed him to go, only to have him absent for a very long time. When I finally went to investigate as to what was taking him so long, the sight before my eyes was overwhelming.
I stepped into the boy’s bathroom to see my little student with his underwear around his ankles, diarrhea running down his legs, and that same substance all over the seat of the toilet. He was holding one square of toilet paper pinched between his index finger and thumb, and with that one square he was wiping the toilet seat. He looked up at me and said, “I will clean it Cheacher!”
Have you ever experienced something in life that was so overwhelming, and seemingly unending? Maybe you, like me, have been through seasons of life that felt like an overwhelming mess, and all you had was a square of toilet paper to combat it all with. Your inadequacy becomes highlighted by the trouble around you. Maybe you are in that season now.
Life can become unbearable. (I’ve blogged on the actual meaning of the scripture “God will not give you more than you can bear” and you can read it here.) If you’ve lost a loved one, or struggled to keep a family together that was falling apart at the seams, you know what I am talking about. If you are battling a terminal disease, or chronic illness, you have felt this sense of overwhelming “crap”. Our own sorrows, chemical imbalances, depressions, and outlooks can also surround us and leave us feeling isolated without hope.
The “why?” questions that surround our agonies are deep and individual, and I cannot address them all here, but I want to highlight a way through our pain, and it starts with that one square of toilet paper.
One of our first mistakes in dealing with trouble and pain, is that we think we can do it ourselves. Much like the little boy in the restroom with his thumb and forefinger firmly pinched on the tissue, we gingerly go about the task of wiping up the mess. We all have our reasons for going it alone: “I don’t want to bother others with my trouble,” or “It’s no one else’s business anyways,” or “I don’t want anyone to see me like this.” All of these reasons are certainly valid in our minds, and anything less than this would be an embarrassment, and we would rather deal with our own trouble on our own terms. But the job becomes arduous, and the smell becomes overwhelming. We suddenly find we have been “absent” for a very long time. People begin wondering what happened to us. The last time they saw us, we were headed to the bathroom…
We need to cry out for help. First of all, we need to call out to God who loves us and sees us right where we are. If ever we needed the Head Janitor to get us out of our messes, it is when we are becoming buried in them. The good news is that He has a way through them already planned, and has promised to stoop down into our calamity and clean it up, and walk us out. Sometimes the walk “out” isn’t all at once, but he makes the way clearer step by step, and very often He uses people to reach us, bringing more and more squares of toilet paper to our aid.
We need to accept help. If we could release the pinch of our fingers around our “do it myself” mentality, and reach for help, we would find a greater arsenal for moving through the pain. Pastors, mentors, close friends, counselors, doctors, treatment facilities, and people with gifts of service can often provide the support we need and help us walk out of our distress. Every phone call from a friend, every meal shared, every hand extended, every word of encouragement, and every act of service being performed around us, for us, and on our behalf, is the goodness of God coming to rescue us from our crap. We need to let people into our lives to help us.
I so admired my little student’s determination and eagerness to take care of the mess he made on his own. It was clear to me however, that his resources and efforts would not be enough to fix the trouble. So I quickly went to work– first cleaning up my student. Calling another teacher in, we went about the task of changing his clothes and washing him up. Then I gathered up mops, paper towels and disinfectant and cleaned the bathroom. (Realize that sometimes our messes don’t just affect us. There may be further clean-up required.)
This is how God works on our behalf. Because He loves us, He says he will come when we call on Him. Because He is a Redeemer, Creator, and Restorer, He knows just what we need, and He has the strength we need to see it through.
May this blog today be one more square of toilet paper in your arsenal. God sees you, loves you, and wants to break into your mess. He has the resources, patience, compassion, and plan to walk you through whatever you are facing, with the power to free you from the heaviness, and redeem everything you feel you have lost. Call out to Him today.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,