My grandfather, age 92, sometimes draws sermon topics from dreams and visions. At twice my age, I guess it’s only natural that he has had more dreams and visions than I have. My inspiration comes from more common sources. This week, I am inspired by doormats and kitty litter.
If a doormat does its job, it gets messy. I’ve seen people toss doormats out, saying they are nothing but dirt collectors.
I had a friend in the mat industry. They’d collect dirty door mats from busy business locations, replace them with clean mats, launder the old mats and repeat the cycle. In door mats, quality is measured by how many pounds of dirt it can hold, and how well it holds up in the laundry. It’s a huge service industry. Businesses pay big bucks to keep those dirt-collectors in place.
A doormat is designed to get dirty. The dirt that a doormat collects is dirt that doesn’t make it farther into your house.
As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing. And, as Dr. Joyce Brown says, dirt is matter out of place; it’s hair in the butter or butter in the hair. And that brings us to kitty litter.
If you ever spilled kitty litter on the floor, you know how messy kitty litter is. When you mop your floor, the dirt in the water is dirt off the floor. The last thing you want to do is to spill the mop bucket on a clean floor. Well, that’s exactly what I did.
If that ever happens to you, here’s a helpful hint. Pour (clean) kitty litter on the floor. You sweep it one way, and a flooded floor is now just damp. Sweep it across the floor again, and a damp floor becomes dry! All of a sudden, that messy kitty letter turns out to be a great cleaning aid. It’s the same stuff that factories pour on indoor oil spills to dry them up quickly.
So, how does that relate to the trouble in our lives?
I’m not one to suggest that God is responsible for the trouble in our lives. Some of it we bring on ourselves, and some of it gets spilled on us by everyone else. It’s a fallen world, and that means trouble. But sometimes, what we call trouble is really God’s end-run around bigger problems that we could have had down the road.
An innoculation might not be pleasant, but it helps avoid sickness. An operation might seem like trouble, but a successful operation is a blessing. And people are always praying for a “good report” from medical testing; what they actually want is an accurate report, cause if there’s trouble, you want to find it now.
Peter’s first epistle told early followers that they were “begotten … unto a lively hope … to an innheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven … Whereby ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (NRSV: many trials) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ … ”
They were, in other words, undergoing “trouble” that was actually a testing (development, training) of their faith, to the glory of Christ.
God’s ways are above our ways. We are told that we will have trouble in this world. But, if we trust that there is a loving God who has our well-being at heart, we can trust that God will work good from the trouble we face. We should always bear in mind that what looks like trouble might actually be a blessing from a God far wiser than we are.