“His Mysterious Ways”
A month or so ago, God blessed me greatly one morning. He blessed me by allowing me to wake up at 3:00 a.m. and not be able to go back to sleep. How is that a blessing you might ask? After all, when you have spent many years unable to sleep soundly and have the previous few months started sleeping a little better, the last thing you would call waking up at 3 a.m. is a blessing. Matter of fact, if you have ever spent enough nights lying awake unable to go to sleep or waking up in the wee hours of the morning and not being able to go back to sleep, you would tend to think of waking up at 3 a.m. as more of a curse than a blessing. And prior to this particular morning, I too, would have considered such a waking a “curse.”
However, at the time I awoke that morning, it did seem like a curse. At first, I just lay there hoping I would go back to sleep, but I didn’t. After an hour so lying there tossing and turning and being generally miserable, I decided I would get up and take one of my herbal sleep aids, which just so happened to be in the kitchen.
As I walked down the hallway to the kitchen, I heard a strange sound. It was sort of the sound that a hot water tank makes when it is filling up with water. Yet, I did not hear the distinctive sound that this gas hot water heater makes when the burner is going. “That’s odd,” I thought, stopping in front of the folding doors that covered the space the hot water heater was housed in. I asked myself why would the water be filling the tank, yet the burner not be going? Then, I asked myself why the hot-water heater would be running at 4 a.m. when no one was using the hot water. Suddenly, I knew what was wrong, and yanked the folding doors back, to see water pooling both on the wooden platform the tank sits on, and in the open space beneath. I was appalled by the amount of water pooling in the space below.
Then, I remembered what my father had told me a year and half earlier. He had been visiting me, and when he does so, he inspects everything, and he told me, “Your hot water heater is nearly as old as you are, and I can tell you from experience, that sometime over the next year or so, that tank is going to spring a leak. You need to call your landlady and tell her she needs to get a new hot water heater.” I did as my father directed, but the landlady was not inclined to replace the hot water heater, which at the time appeared to be working fine. When I reported her response to my father, he told me, “Well, you better invest in some renter’s insurance, because that thing is going go, and when it does, it could be really bad. Of course, I did as my father directed and purchased the insurance. Unfortunately, last November, my policy expired as I could not afford to renew it. My father was very disturbed about this development and kept reminding me that somehow I must find a way to get some renter’s insurance. So on this chilly March morning as I stared at the growing puddle of water beneath the tank, I remembered that I did not have any renter’s insurance.
So, I did what I tend to do when faced with such crises; I called my father (after leaving messages on the landlady’s phone), and asked him how I was to turn off the water valve. He told me, but though following his directions, I was not sure it was off. The next step was to wake up the neighbor on the other side of the wall. He verified that the valve was off, found another valve and turned it off, and turned off the pilot light (something I had not thought of yet.)
By this time it was 5 a.m. and the carpet in the hallway was starting to get soaked. I spent the next several hours soaking up water with every bath towel and absorbent fabric I could find. Around this same time, I was suddenly inspired (divinely inspired in my opinion), to place large bowls under the wooden platform in the areas where the water was dripping. In this way, I emptied dozens of bowls of water throughout the day, as the tank continued to leak out its seemingly endless supply. As I did all this, emptying bowls and sopping up water, wringing out towels, and running the washer and dryer constantly, while waiting to hear back from the landlady and hopefully a plumber, I was overwhelmed with a sense of thankfulness, a sense of being profoundly blessed in this stressful and unpleasant situation.
When my son got up to get ready for school, and I told him what was happening, he said, “Well, this could not have happened at a worse time.” I told him, “No so, it could have happened at a worse time.” I pointed out to him that the previous day he and I had spent from 12:30 to 8:30 p.m. in a nearby city going to appointments and running errands, and that had the tank started to leak the day before while we were gone for so many hours, that the situation would have been so much worse, that we could have come home to find our apartment flooded, and it could have been so bad that we couldn’t live here any longer. He replied, “Oh, I didn’t think of that.” Then I told him how I happened to discover the leak, and I pointed out that had I not awakened when I did, the mess and damage would have been much more severe.
I told my son we were very blessed. He looked at me sort of funny, as I mopped up water and slung wet towels in the washing machine. I said, “Son, that hot water heater was going to bust at some point because of its age. Your grandpa told us that quite some time ago. Of all the times it could have busted, this was the best time. Then, God blessed us more, by waking me up so early, keeping me awake, and allowing me to discover the problem in a timely fashion.” I told him we were blessed that our neighbor was home and knew how to turn off all the valves and thought of turning off the pilot light. After awhile, he laughed and said, “God does things in strange ways, doesn’t He.” I told him, yes, He did, and explained that that is why when something “bad” happens, to look more closely, and see God’s hand at work in our lives, even in the “bad situations.”
As I said this to my son that morning before he went on to school, I had no idea just how much more God was planning to do with this seeming disaster of a leaking hot-water heater. Later in the day, a plumber arrived at my apartment. This plumber was unlike any I had encountered before. He was one of the most courteous, compassionate, customer-service oriented repairmen I have ever encountered. Shortly after his arrival, and as he worked to finish draining the tank, we discovered that the water had soaked not only into the carpet in the hallway, but into a small portion of my son’s bedroom and a small closet, as well. The carpet in these areas was soaked. I called my landlady and informed her the plumber was here and said we needed a new tank. In addition, I told her about the soaked carpet and asked her what we should do about that. She advised me to do what I had already done. I asked her if there was some pump or something that a carpet place could use to vacuum out the water, or even just a shop vac. She told me that she didn’t know anything about that and I would have to do that myself. This was an overwhelming thought, given everything else that had to be done, and the fact I was running on almost no sleep.
I shared with the plumber what my landlady had said about the carpet. His response surprised me, since in my experience, repairmen tend to confine their work to the particular task or repair that they have been hired to do, and technically, the carpet problem really wasn’t in the area of plumbing. The plumber was emphatic that the carpet problem had to be addressed, since if we didn’t, we would end up with black mold, and maybe even rot in certain areas. He assured me he would take care of it. Immediately, he made a phone call to carpet service businessman, who happened to be working at a house just a block or so away and told them the problem, and asked them to come by to solve the problem of the water and the carpet. It wasn’t long before the carpet man called me and told me what they would need to do to get the water out and what time he would be coming by. I told the plumber that my landlady might not be happy with me, since she was the one going to have to pay for it all, and that she may not think the carpet issue was that serious. He promised me he would take care of it. The landlady called back, and he told her what he had told me and how the long-term cost of not dealing with the water-logged carpet would far outweigh the cost of cleaning it up. She agreed with him, and the work began.
Then, my son arrived home from school…and we discovered the other blessing. It just so happens that my teenage son is about to graduate from high school, and his plan is to enter a local plumbing apprenticeship program. Interestingly, the program has the unusual requirement for the applicant to first get hired with a plumbing company before they are permitted to enroll in the program. So, my son, who has never been employed at all, is faced with the daunting task of convincing some plumbing company to hire a totally inexperienced young man who is not qualified to do any plumbing whatsoever. This task would be a challenge for any young man my son’s age, but my son faces other challenges that make getting a job at all a huge obstacle to overcome. He and I both know that he really needs a very particular sort of employer and boss, who would be a good teacher, patient, understanding and kind. Of course, there is no way to guarantee that he will get that sort of employer, and under the circumstances, would be fortunate to be hired by any company, given his age, inexperience, and challenges.
As my son walked in and saw the plumber working, he was naturally curious about the process, as this is his intended line of work. He joined me and the plumber in the hallway. I introduced the two, and my son proceeded to share with him his career plans, and asked a great deal about the task the plumber was doing. The man took the time to patiently show my son everything, explain the problem in great detail, and explain how he was going to fix it. He took a great liking to my son, to his willingness to learn and listen, and to his humble attitude. (My son is one of those rare young males who don’t think they already know everything.)
In the course of the ensuing conversation between the three of us, I discovered that this courtly, genteel, and professional man was not simply a plumber; he was one of the owners of the plumbing company (a local, family owned, highly reputable company), and that he usually was not “in the field,” but due to the ice and snow that was due the next day, all the company employees were in the field overtime to get as many jobs done as possible before the bad weather hit.
This plumbing company owner told my son that when he was ready to start applying for and interviewing for plumbing jobs, to give him a call (and he gave my son his direct number), and that they would talk about a job for him. He said that if his company was not hiring at the time my son graduated high school, that he knew lots of local plumbing companies and that he would do everything he could to make sure he got on with a good company.
At this point, I felt so blessed, and so in awe of how God uses events in our lives, no matter how bad they seem, or how insignificant they may appear to be, to work out sorts of things for His people. I felt so blessed: blessed that I woke up when I did, blessed the leak occurred when it did, blessed that this particular plumber was the one assigned to this job, blessed that he took care of the carpet problem, blessed that my son came in while he was here, blessed that he took such a liking to my son, and blessed that he is willing to either hire him or help him find another position. Most of all, I just feel blessed that God cares about us so much, that not only would He send us this help in this situation, but do it in such a way that I know without a doubt that He is the One in Control, and that I can trust Him to use each and every obstacle, problem, battle, injustice, adversity to show us His love, and to make these situations “to work together for the good of those that love Him.”
Later, while telling my parents all that transpired, and sharing with them the amazing love God had shown us that day, I discovered I had been blessed in another way I had not even known about. As I was telling my mother all that transpired and how I was so thankful I had awakened when I did, my mother told me, “Your daddy has been really bothered about that whole hot water heater situation, and he has worried about it and prayed about it a lot, especially since your renters insurance expired. I guess you could say you had renters insurance after all: your daddy’s prayers.” I had known my father was worried about it, but I did not know until my mother said so, that my hot-water heater was a regular topic of prayer for my father. So, both my earthly father and heavenly Father were looking out for me. More blessings!
The next day, I opened my mailbox, and received some devastating news, news far more dire than any busted hot water heater, news that can totally change mine and my son’s life in a truly devastating way. At the time, although concerned, I was still in amazement about how God had worked everything out the day before, and so I was not particularly worried about how it would be solved.
Of course, as tends to happen, a few days later, like Peter when he was walking on the water, I took my eyes off Jesus and started looking at the storm. I became overwhelmed and scared. No, terrified. It looked so hopeless, and I was overcome with a paralyzing fear and depression. I could see no possible way out of the situation. In the natural realm, there just weren’t any solutions. After praying with a friend about it, my faith and assurance increased. However, there have still been days since then when it just looked so hopeless to me, and my son would ask, “Mom, how will we pay the rent? Buy groceries?”
I told him, “God will make a way. I don’t know how, but He will make a way.” I then reminded him of the hot-water tank experience and how God worked out all those little details, and how a God who loves us enough to care about such matters as wet carpet and Who can bring a possible employer right under our roof, will surely see us through this ordeal as well. That is what I think about when the fear assails me; I remember the hot-water tank, the plumber, and a loving, great God who makes all these things work together for our good. And when I feel scared, I try to start thanking Him and praising Him for all He has done, and thanking Him for how He’s going to work out the current situation. Even when we can’t trust anyone else, we can trust Him.
So, the next time I wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t go back to sleep, I think I am going to get up and walk around the house and say, “Lord, why did you wake me up? What’s wrong? Is there someone or something I need to pray for right now?” And hopefully, I will remember to thank Him for blessing me with being wide awake at 3 a.m.!
Post-Script: The “carpet man” was as professional and thorough as the plumber, and he made sure all the water was pumped out and everything dried properly. And the plumber? Well, he fixed a broken screen door while he was here, along with changing the filter in my air conditioner/central heat unit, and just yesterday my son spoke to him on the phone and my son will be interviewing with him in just over another week!
“Thank God in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:18