There was a time not so long ago when I lived in a house that was constantly under various stages of construction. Sometimes there was a necessary home repair, and sometimes there was a new project. It seemed that there was always a slight haze of drywall dust in the air and an orange five gallon bucket full of stuff I might need sitting in the corner. There were putty knives, hammers, screw drivers, nails, screws, box cutters, electric drills, googles, masks…almost anything you may need in a moment to make some progress on the pending repair.
Once, while trying to repair a hole in the wall, I found myself in a precarious position of balancing on the top of a ladder, holding a perfectly cut piece of drywall in one hand and an electric drill in the other. I had one foot tightly anchored to the ladder and glided the drywall into the wall like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I carefully held the piece steady and revved the drill feeling like a pre-race version of Mario Andretti. I reached into my tool box sitting on the top of the ladder and grabbed for a screw, but there weren’t any there. I was out.
I climbed down my ladder and headed to the bucket in the corner. I searched and searched for the right screw, and there was nothing there. There were all sorts of things in my bucket but none of them the right. As a reached down to the bottom of the bucket, I felt something metal and pointed and I hoped that it was exactly what I needed. As I yanked it out, I saw a nail. With deep resignation, knowing it wouldn’t work, I tried it anyway.
I so often find myself overwhelmed by the intensity of life’s problems. I often feel like I’m balancing delicately, and holding a piece of life that I just don’t know how to handle. How will I handle my child’s unhappiness, how will I manage growing financial needs, how will I prepare for retirement, how will I loose 20lbs, how will I ever be a wife that gives more than she takes? Sometimes I’m desperately searching in my tool box, throwing things out of the box that I can never see working, and discarding all the tools that I know help. Exhausted, I find myself staring into an empty tool box.
There I am holding a piece of my life that I can’t fix, with a tool box I’ve savagely annihilated feeling scared and needing something to fix this. I look into the corner and see a bucket. I know that bucket. I’ve seen that bucket sitting there before. I carefully climb down the ladder holding that piece of uncontrollable life and walk to the corner. Sitting there quietly is my sin bucket. It’s lush with so many ways to make this uncomfortable piece of life not feel so heavy. I reach deep down in the bucket sorting through gluttony, and lust. I power down deep through codependency and anger issues. I keep digging until I reach the bottom. Deep at the bottom of my sin bucket I find just the right fix. I grab on to it and carefully lift it out. As it reaches the top of my bucket, I see the sin I know so well. I see shame.
As I release it into the air, I drop the piece of life I can’t fix. Shame tells me that I’ve created this mess, that there will never be a way out, that I will never be enough. And for a moment I am relieved because I can’t fix it.
As I look around I see my tool box laying on the floor with scattered tools around me, and I know there’s a better way. I see the tools of grace and forgiveness, of prayer and of discernment. I crawl over and use each piece as I rebuild my tool kit. I forcefully shove that shame back into my sin bucket and I sit.
I know that in the corner of my life there is a bucket of sin that calls to me. It woes me with seductive efficiency, and even when I believe that I’ve put the lid on it for good, it secretly calls to me. The sin bucket is easy. You pull one out and for a moment it relieves the heaviness of life. Today as I’m holding so many pieces of life, I pray that with God’s grace I can just use my Tool Kit. I’m praying that I can use the only effective tools in front of me instead of following the allurement of the bucket in the corner I know so well. Today I just pray, not this time.