Scripture Reading: Romans 8:1-17, Isaiah 53:10, Mark 14:32-36
Indoor plumbing was a luxury in the Haitian village where my adopted daughter, Missy, grew up. And soft, two-ply toilet paper—that was even more rare. When I brought her home to Tennessee, flushing the toilet with copious amounts of Charmin quickly became one of her favorite pastimes.
That was my thought in those early days as I observed her wide-eyed delight at watching massive plumes of paper spiral downward. But after a while, wading through ankle-deep wastewater in my bathroom and writing large checks to repairmen lost its allure.
So I was at my wit’s end a couple months ago when I walked into my bathroom—past my innocent-looking daughter splashing in a bubble bath—slipped on the wet tile, and quickly discovered water gushing out of the commode like Niagara Falls. After a heavy sigh, I morphed into the put-upon persona my mother used when I did something especially naughty as a child:
Doggone it, Missy, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU not to use giant gobs of toilet paper like this?!
I angrily set about cleaning up the mess. The entire time I was plunging and fussing and mopping up that yucky pond with beach towels, I had my back turned to Missy.
As the water and my irritability subsided, I turned around to see my precious little girl staring at me mournfully, big tears streaming down her beautiful brown cheeks. I’d all but crushed her spirit over something innocent and insignificant. She wasn’t trying to cause a mess. She hadn’t been willfully disobedient or disrespectful. This was a plumbing issue—not a heart issue.
I lifted her out of the tub, dried her off with our last dry towel, and rocked her back and forth until she stopped crying. I carefully explained that it was wrong for Mama to raise her voice, that I’d made a very bad choice, and that I was so sorry I’d hurt her feelings.
That night I called my contractor, who seemed perplexed when I asked, “Hey, Jack, you know those really powerful toilets on cruise ships that sound like they could suck your leg off when you flush them? Can you install one of those in my bathroom?”
Less than forty-eight hours later, our brand-new supersonic vacuum version of a toilet was installed. I cheered so enthusiastically after Missy’s inaugural flush, you’d have thought she’d won an Olympic medal.
Our recent toiletastrophes have reminded me just how much I love, value, and cherish my little girl. They’ve also reminded me of how God the Father loves, values, and cherishes me, His kid.
I’m overwhelmed by the beautiful, redemptive ways He’s moved in my life. How He chose a former Haitian orphan, who lost her first mom to AIDS and never knew her biological father, to effectively rip out the last stubborn roots of the orphaned, fatherless spirit that have been growing in my own heart since long before I was Missy’s age.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory
(Romans 8:14-17, NIV).
Children. Heirs. Coheirs with Christ.
God continues to employ my unlikely, only-by-grace, position of motherhood as a constant, colorful illustration of how He cheers Himself hoarse over every ungainly cartwheel we do (Zephaniah 3:17). How He leans down and hangs on every word of our mostly narcissistic prayers. How—despite our proclivity to make huge messes—He is so completely for us.
Lisa Harper is a master storyteller with a masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. She’s lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She’s been in vocational ministry for 30 years and has written 15 books (her latest being, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World) and Bible study curriculums but says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama! They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.