Why is it that when I’m in some real tough situations, all I seem to be able to do is to praise my God? I mean, I’m not as spiritual as that sounds. I’d rather watch TV most evenings than pray. I’d much rather talk to my best friend than listen to a deep theological lecture. Furthermore, I’m just as selfish as they come, and I like getting my own way. Finally, I’m bored right now. I’m trying to be productive, but it’s much easier to be creative and to blog than to be hard working.
Okay, let’s get back on track, here.
I’m not devoted to home repair. Not in general, anyway. But one evening, I found myself laying vinyl tile in my bathroom. I was tired and overheated, and the last thing I wanted to be doing was laying tile. But I finished the job, and I was still pumped about it days later.
What does one have to do with the other? Why is laying tile like praise and worship? Believe me, it was a hard project. First, I peeled and scraped up all the old vinyl from the master bathroom. It left a super sticky residue that threatened to rip off flesh when a part of my leg or hand accidentally landed on it. Then, I spent a couple of weeks putting off the finishing the work. It promised to be a short job. Why did I take so long? Well, it seemed too hard.
For one, the glue that held the old tiles down was a problem. It stuck to every tiny speck of dust or particle of who knows what and everything became a semi-permanent part of this sticky non-flooring. I had no idea how to get the floor clean, and every moment that I spent in the room made it worse.
My bathroom isn’t air conditioned. The room is hot. As I stood there looking down at my floor trying to figure out how I would begin, I stepped to the left. I almost fell over. My shoes were sticking to the ground. How could I kneel on this ground and rest my palms on it without losing skin? And once I’m in pain from the peeled skin, how can I keep working?
And the last time I lay the tile, I did it badly, so I was left laying tiny slivers of tile along the empty spaces of floor along the edge of the walls. These tiny pieces of tile began coming up every time I swept or mopped. I’d push the pieces back in place with the corner of my toe, but each stray piece seemed to mock me with the message that I was just not very good at manual labor.
So, you are still wondering what I’m going to give you to make this coherent. I’m still a bit lost on how to connect it. I know how it connects, but you know how people smoothly segue into a new area by using their polished speaking skills and their sense of humor? Well, so far, I’ve got none of that.
On that night, there on my bathroom floor, I did something that I wasn’t eager to do. I worked at it until I finished the task. Then, I slept like a happy, well fed baby. What was this effort to me? What made it so special that I’m still talking about it today? The fact that I did it because it was my job.
It’s huge to me because I felt so accomplished. It was tough! It took imagination. I was worn out at the end of it. And I was ready for the longest sleep of my life. I did a huge thing. In my mind, it was comparable to a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was grueling. Exhausting. Sweaty. And awesome!
Oh, and I’m proud to say, no slivers of tile! I managed to cut the large pieces correctly this time, for the most part. It looked great.
Some parts of life will make you sorry that you had to get out of bed in the morning. Some of life will wear you out before you even begin. Some of it is much too hard. You don’t feel up to the task. It’s enough to break you.
This floor was enough to make me cringe and shudder. But I was able to finish because I had a dream and a goal. My worship often feels like sacrifice. But I have a dream that keeps me seeking his face. Today, it felt like drudgery to hit play and listen to Brian read the Bible to me on my Daily Audio Bible app. I wasn’t sure that I’d be into the story today. After all, he’s reading through Chronicles. Ouch! But believe it or not, it was a great section of scripture. Right after Balaam’s talking donkey, here came a huge battle between Israel and Moab, and when it was over, Balaam was dead. Wow!
If you’ve never read the story of the talking donkey, trust me, it’s epic. Especially to a child hearing it for the first time. Then, to a grown woman who learns that unlike Santa Claus, this isn’t a fiction meant to teach you something. It really happened. And finally, when you’re a woman like me finally understanding that God warns you away from stuff to save you from pain.
Balaam was offered riches and fame for going to Balack’s homeland. It was going to be a great journey for him. He even got Balack to promise not to kill him if his message wasn’t exactly what Balack wanted to hear. No death for a bad prophecy. Just what a prophet wants to hear. He was excited about this adventure. And he went.
It wasn’t without its consequences. God isn’t random or arbitrary. He’s a caring father who often stops you and me from doing something because it’s dangerous. In this case, Balaam died.
Other times, like for my bathroom floor, God allows us to do something hard to build in us confidence, hope, and godly character. It did something powerful for me, and if I hadn’t begun this blog the day after I laid that tile, I wouldn’t remember today why I went through all that. Particularly since the newly laid flooring is now puling away from a section of of the floor. A section I repaired badly. The underlying damage couldn’t be hidden. I was tempted to be angry about that. But this blog reminded me to praise.
When things look bleak, when God says no, when everything makes no sense, why not just praise God, thank Him that we’re here to experience all this, and just keep trusting Him with our lives? Balaam thought he knew better than God, and he was killed by an attacking army. We sometimes think that we know better than common sense, wisdom, and the God who made the universe. But we don’t, either. So join me in praising the One who knows it all and manages our lives with minute care.
We’re going to endure pain. We’re going to experience joy. We’re going to weep, but we will also get to laugh. We’re going to do things right and let God leads us. We’re going to do things epically wrong. But we’re also going to find that as we praise, it all becomes richer and more wonderful than we could ever imagine. God made our life. He can fix it. Trust him, even if it’s all your fault that things went bad. And above all, keep on praising him.
Not sure what praise looks like? Here’s an example:
God, you are good. Your plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, and for that I am grateful. You made me with love, and designed me expertly. I thank you even for the things about myself that I’d rather change. You are awesome, mighty, brilliant, and kind. Your mercies are new every morning, and I’m so grateful for that. Have mercy on me, Lord, and help me to learn to love you more and more, as you so richly deserve.
(Just speak from the heart. He loves you!)