A Spectacle of Love

It is never a good thing when septic tanks clog.

They are smelly, gross, unhygienic, and smelly. They are concentrated petri dishes of all diseases known to man (and probably a few we don’t). Thus, it was not happy news when my family received a distress call from friends down the road experiencing brown-box-backup-blowout.

Unfortunately, they were struggling financially and unable to pay for a plumber’s services. That’s why they called my dad.

In matters of wood, metal, and electricity, my father has always fit squarely into Home Depot’s target do-it-yourself audience, but even this was beyond his experience. So making no promises, he headed over to their house to have a look.

It was a long, ugly affair that involved more than an hour of digging to uncover the tank and determine the source of the blockage. To put it gently, the trouble was a large mass of the stuff usually responsible for clogging toilets. With his limited equipment Dad was not able to solve the problem from where he stood.

I will never forget what happened next, because in those moments I saw one of the greatest examples of the gospel I have ever known.

My father looked from the reeking mess in the pit to the family standing on the lawn; poor, helpless, and unable to do a thing about their dilemma.

He set his shovel aside, sat down, and slowly began to unlace his boots. Then he took off his shirt. I watched dumbstruck, as he swung his legs over the side and dropped down into the stinking morass. Up to his torso in scum, he reached bare handed into the drainage pipe and began digging, pulling out handful after handful of sticky, wet sewage.

Everyone else had to stand back, eyes watering and nostrils stinging with rancid fumes. Yet the tears in our neighbor’s eyes flowed for a different reason, standing mute at this spectacle of love.

After the ordeal was over, we burned Dad’s clothes, and he didn’t come out of the shower for about a week. While the stench has since washed away, the lesson that he taught me will remain forever.

I was reminded that day of another Man, long ago, whose love was so great that He stripped himself of glory and sank down, deep into the refuse and ruin of our lives. Who reached with bleeding hands into our hearts to pull out the death and decay there, that He might raise us up out of the pits of hell, and wash us clean.

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