My wife and I were married in June 2008. The next summer we got a dog, a border collie, named Glory. We started building our life in our new home in our new marriage with our new dog and our new jobs. Everything was new, but some old things still clung to us. They needed to go, but they wouldn't give up easily. It was time for a change, but change was too regular.
The next summer, 2010, our house was flooded. The little life we had been building was interrupted. The brown water of the Harpeth River had found its way under the cracks of the doors, and with it the grace of God found its way into the cracks of our hearts.
The thing about water is that it travels to the lowest possible spot. It doesn’t ascend, it descends. It goes down and spreads out. You can block it until the level rises, then you just have to move higher.
The day the rains came we spent the morning at church learning how to study the Bible from a man who knows how to study the Bible. We looked at the book of Jonah. We saw in that short book a glimpse into ourselves. We run from the call of God. When he comes, we buy the first ticket in the opposite direction. We force our way away from God as if we can ever truly leave his presence. The wonder of the book of Jonah is that God comes to people who hate him. He chases after rebels as if they were his own children. He sends a messenger to them to speak of his grace and love. And in the process changes the messenger as well. His grace is pursuing and conquering. We can run, but only as far as he'll let us.
Later that night, after arriving home from dinner with my in-law’s, we were met with a trail of cars at the head of our street. The waters had already come. Some families were staying, some were leaving. We waded through the water and entered the still-dry house. We moved everything we could upstairs, prayed in the empty living room and then waded back to the car and spent the night at my parent’s house.
As we lay in the bed in the bedroom I grew up in, I lamented about our circumstances. The water wasn’t in our house, but it was surely on its way. Had I moved all of my books? Would it get high enough to ruin the electrical? Would it destroy our home? What would happen? Had we just lost the little we had built in our short marriage?
My wife looked at me, and with a voice that she uses only when she’s deadly serious, said, “Where is your faith?”
The next day we sat together on the couch as the rain continued. We heard stories of mudslides, watched horses rescued by helicopter on TV, listened to weather reports as if they were sermons, waiting for some good news.
The rain stopped mid-afternoon. We got in the car and drove the hilliest way we could find back to our house. We just needed to see what had come of it. A house across the street from us has burst into flames when the gas can floated its way to the hot water heater pilot light. Did our house meet the same fate?
Two Fire Fighters were standing at the end of my driveway. I thought maybe the water didn’t get in. They wouldn’t let anyone down our street, so I went down another street, through some trees. I waded through waist-deep water that rose to my chest in some areas. The Harpeth River is not clean water when held within its banks, and it was doubly disgusting now that it had picked up everything on its way to my house.
It was a slow process. You can’t run in water. I was afraid someone would see me and make me leave so I went slow and quiet. I made it to my neighbor’s house in a few minutes. I saw the firewood that went unused during the winter floating beside me. I knocked a log out of the way and noticed something else. I knew what it was, but that it was right here was amazing to me. There was a fake rock that had been given to us as a housewarming gift two years ago when we moved in. The words etched on the surface, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
This could have floated anywhere over the past two days. But it didn’t. It floated right by me Sunday, May 2 around 5:00 PM. It found me. It ran into me.
I grabbed it and continued wading toward the house. I reached the deck and was able to get some good standing for the first time. I could hear the voices of the firefighters at the end of my driveway. I was hoping they didn’t hear me. I walked up the deck and looked in the windows into the kitchen and saw brown water covering the floor. It had come in. Our house had been flooded. Things were different now.
There wasn’t anything to do, so I just turned around and walked back to the car where my wife was waiting. My fears were confirmed – our house was flooded. But something else had been confirmed during that walk too. Jesus was the only solid rock I could stand on. My hope was not in this house. It was in God. We were going to be ok.
The next day we came back and started cleaning up. We mopped the floors and wiped down the walls. Then we began pulling the hardwoods up and ripping out drywall. We had a long road ahead of us, but we weren’t alone. We had a community of people there to help us. They selflessly gave their time to help put our house back together.
That August, we brought the first piece of furniture back into the house. My wife cried as she saw the entrywar table standing there. We had our home back. But it wasn’t our home anymore. Our names were still on the deed, but someone else had laid claim to it. This was God’s house. He gave it to us, but it was his all along. Now we could see that.
The next week we went out and bought a kitchen table. It wasn’t nice. It was from Target. It cost $120. It was a rectangle with four chairs. We still have it.
That table represented something. It represented the change that had taken place in us. We were not the same people. Our house wasn’t the same. Our marriage wasn’t the same. That table represented our metamorphosis.
When we put the house back together that table became the centerpiece. It became the place where we ate our dinner. It became the place where we sat and talked. Eventually, it became the place where our first married Bible studies took place. It became the place where I fell in love with the book of Hebrews. It became the place that replaced the empty promises of our former life and solidified the new promises – the better promises – that our new life would be built upon.
That table signified a shift that had taken place in our hearts since the flood waters came. It represented the change in priorities. The TV was replaced as the centerpiece. The kitchen table had won our hearts. And that table won us over because it was where we recounted the goodness of the Lord in our time of trouble. We became a family for the first time, not because of the flood, but through the flood. God took us from boring, lifeless man and woman through the rivers to bring water and life to our dry bones.
Water always goes to the lowest spot. It doesn’t care what’s there. It floods it, carries it away, erodes it, changes it. And that’s what the grace of God had done to us. The flood brought us low and God had his way with us in his grace. He changed us, and he did it by sending a river through our house.
For many those two days were harrowing. They were the end of family pictures and a house full of memories, I am was, and am, sorry for their loss. But for my wife and me, those days were days of maturation. They were days when we learned that sometimes the best thing God can do for you is wreck your life. A flood of grace can come in the form of a flooded house. He’s the rock. Get off the sand.