We bought a home last July that we absolutely love, but there is one thing about it that I have grown to ardently hate, pipes. Four times in less than a year we have had a total drainage lock-down. Some might attribute our demise to great cereal, but I am telling you, the problem is bad pipes.
Everything is going great, flowing freely. There is little to no thought of the importance of what is taking place below the floor until I hear that dreaded gurgle. The gurgle is the final warning that what is supposed to be leaving your home is about to reverse and make a nasty return. This may be TMI territory, but you need to know. It stinks.
I have seen the same thing happen to marriages, friendships, businesses, churches, and teams. Things are going great, flowing freely, and then there is a gurgle followed by a sudden reversal of progress that brings with it an unwelcome stench. What was once going good is now markedly bad.
Paul had a series of communications with a gifted church that started well but had long since gurgled, reversed, and now sat in a stagnant stench. There was definite tension in their relationship. So he writes:
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
Do you see the problem? Restricted affections. The heart must be widened for things to flow freely again. There was a clog in the pipes. As I said before. This could apply to organizational pipes, relational pipes, marital pipes, ecclesiastical (church) pipes . . . whatever the situation the remedy is the same.
Locate the problem.
By trial and error we finally located the source of our issue. The entire system failed at one joint. Instead of a Y that would cooperate with gravity, the brilliant plumber who did the original work on the house decided that a T would work. Let me tell you, T’s do not work well with gravity. I have learned that all that happens within a T joint is horrible things we should not mention.
In our culture we are conditioned that when you hear the gurgle in the relationship, marriage, church, business, etc. the problem is solved by pointing a finger. Blame does little to unclog restricted affections, but humility will go a long way.
Instead of immediately pointing the finger of blame toward the Corinthians, Paul humbly checked himself to see if there were restricted affections in him. If you read the preceding paragraph (2 Cor. 6:1-10), you will see that Paul examined several points of accountability – his joints if you will! He examined his record of service to Christ, his maturity, his purity, his preaching, his attitude, and his character. You get a sense that if there was cause for blame, he would gladly accept it, but he stood before them blameless. “Our heart is wide open.” No restrictions or clogs of which to speak.
Perhaps you are attending a church that when you first began, the preaching was amazing and the music stirring. But now it is little more than ho-hum. The characters are all the same. What has changed? Before you point a finger at the preacher or a leader, first examine yourself. Check the essential joints; prayer, Bible reading, curiosity, preparation, discipline. Be careful to point a finger at others when in reality you are the clog. Be humble.
Humility goes a long way when it is necessary to deliver a hard word. “You are restricted in your own affections.” Clog located. Now we can go to work.
Use the clean-outs.
Through our trial I have learned that in drainage systems there are several strategically placed clean-outs. I believe clean-outs are a plumbers way of leaving you little clues that certain areas of your home could become problematic. “Here is a clean-out beneath your children’s bathroom. It is here so that you can more conveniently retrieve GI Joe after he has been flushed.” Hint. Hint.
Let me give you more wisdom about clean-outs. Once you unscrew them, you will learn that there is nothing clean about clean-outs. If the clean-out is above you, whatever is ready to be cleaned out, will immediately be upon you – and you will not be clean. I’m telling you this from experience.
God has provided the soul with clean-outs. It is called repentance and confession. Nasty as it is. Unclean as it may sound. Confession is essential for cleansing and healing restricted affection.
Call for help.
I am an only child – male version. I am the T joint of stubborn stupidity. I determined that I, who had 0 plumbing experience, and a stellar track record of failed home improvement blunders, could somehow fix our issue. Think long and hard about this train of reasoning and see if you can discern the fallacy. A preacher would fix the plumber’s mistake.
So I fixed it. The end result was three cut pipes, PVC and water all over the floor. It only took me five hours to completely destroy my home, my marriage, and any respect my children had for me. Added to the emotional turmoil I caused came the even better news that no one could use the bathroom, shower, or use a sink for the rest of the weekend. Its Saturday! But Monday’s comin’ – until then, there are no plumbers, only wet, very aggravated and defeated preachers.
On Monday I called a wonderful man in our church that my wife had counseled me to call when the project began. He came and fixed what I had taken 5 hours to destroy in what seemed like 15 minutes.
There is a plumbing facility on I-59 south in Trussville, AL that has the perfect marketing slogan. John’s Plumbing – “We repair what your husband fixed.” I now know exactly what that means. It means, call for help.
When you try to do things on your own, it usually ends up a greater mess. God designed us for community, not self-sufficiency. Criticism at a distance seems much easier than confrontation at close range, but in the end, when done rightly leaves far less mess. Pointing out clogs is less of a hassle than dealing with them. And to deal with them, most of the time you will need some help. Trust me, before you go cutting pipe, make the call. It will cost you less in the end.
Widening the openings of the heart is hard work, especially when there are clogged, hurt feelings and affections. Seek counsel. Don’t be afraid of the difficult conversations. When the hard work is done and things begging flowing freely again the stench almost immediately disappears. The hope of the gospel is that we are left with a productive and effective way toward reconciliation. Make the call before you make the mess.