As summer approaches, we're facing some home improvement projects, and I remembered this post from a few years back when God taught me an important lesson from a floor covering mess.
Yesterday, Jerry and I embarked on a home improvement project. At the outset, we envisioned the project taking two or three hours and afterwards, we’d stand back and say, “Wow, that sure was easy, and look what we’ve accomplished.”
Historically, however, our experience involves an unexpected twist which causes someone to say, “Oh, no, I never saw that coming.” And of course, a lot of Googling for answers, several trips to the home improvement store, and at least one special order, follows.
The carpet in our den is old and terrible. The last company that cleaned it pronounced last rites. “We’ve done all we can,” the man said as he turned off his cleaning machine, took off his hat, and placed it over his heart.
In anticipation of replacing the carpet with laminate flooring, we thought we’d strip it to the cement slab, and install flooring later. We could live with a little concrete for a while.
If you’d seen the carpet, you’d understand why hard cement is preferable to tufted nylon Berber upon which a tanker truck load of apple juice has been spilled and a menagerie of critters has trod upon not to mention their other unseemly indiscretions.
We ripped up a section of carpet, peeled back the pad, and about then, is when the, “Oh, no, ” sounded.
I had some vague memory when the carpet was replaced years ago, of a little residue left from the previous owner’s indoor-outdoor carpet. I thought it was just in a few places. But I had little children then, and was probably sleep deprived at the time. In reality, black carpet backing covers the entire floor.
Surely, we thought, it’d be a cinch to get that stuff scraped off. It wasn’t. We used snow shovels, paint scrapers, razor blades, you name it, and it was like trying to peel a whole pack of bubble gum off the bottom of your shoe using a toothpick. Finally, after removing the carpet, we decided to leave the carpet pad down until we installed the laminate because although you can’t scrape that black crud up, it releases little bits which are tracked everywhere.
You can imagine how lovely this all looks. We have a section of black gunk, which we exposed before we realized the impossibility of it all. Then the rest of the floor is mottled blue foam. Someone, please call House Beautiful.
To all you floor covering installers out there, I just want to say, I’m sorry. I didn’t know how difficult your job is. I have a new respect for all that you do. Jerry and I have sore backs, sore hands, and if it weren’t for the dust masks we wore, we would probably have had to call the Centers for Disease Control to consult on some terrible air born bacteria we inhaled from the yucky carpet.
So this morning, I’m looking at all this mess on my floor, and I hear something in my spirit.
I’ve been troubled over words I spoke this week. In a twenty-four hour period, I opened my mouth on three different occasions and said things I shouldn’t have.
Hurtful things: gossip I shouldn’t have repeated, judgments I shouldn’t have made, and a misguided response to another’s pain.
Why did I do that? I hate gossip, because I know how it feels to be the subject of it. The same for judging. And someone else's responses don't give me the right to act the same way.
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Why did those words spill out?
Just like when we peeled back the carpet pad and found the black goo, when I allowed God to strip me, unresolved anger surfaced, black goo of my own. And unforgiveness, too.
And like that black carpet mess, which had been there for twenty-five years, covering over it won’t make it go away.
Confession is the only answer. Dragging it out in the open and saying, “Oh, Lord, I was wrong. Please forgive me. Wash me clean and heal my heart, because I spoke out of my own woundedness."
And of course, apologies all around.
Though, I know the Lord has forgiven me, I’m still looking at the ugly consequences. Because words, once they’re spoke, aren’t easily retrieved.
I look to the only one who can mitigate for my failures, who can scrape the black from my heart and make me new.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. ‘ Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
I’m going to have to wait on the new flooring, but I’m so grateful to God that he’s already working on my heart.