Toilet problems often bring out my worst side. Years ago one of my children clogged up the second floor commode with toilet paper but I only became aware of the overflowing mess when the foul liquid began seeping down through my first floor light fixture and landed on my kitchen table. My response was not pretty.
Recently I just returned from a ten-day trip to Europe, specifically Paris and the Black Forest area of Germany. It was a great trip but the very first day I had a tough choice to make and it was because of a toilet.
Let me back up. We took the Sunday night flight leaving from Philadelphia at 6:20 PM arriving in Paris at 7:30 AM, which was actually 1:30 AM my body’s time. After landing, we got our luggage, grabbed a cab and headed for our hotel near the Champs- Èlysèes.
After we settled in our room and unpacked, we decided to start our vacation doing a historic walking tour around the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Our guidebook recommended downloading the audio tour to our phone, so that we could listen to the history of its construction while walking around the Cathedral.
Our hotel concierge gave us a map for the metro system and told us what stop would take us to Notre Dame. Hyped on adrenalin, we were anxious to see as much as we could of Paris in our short three day visit.
One subway ride later, guidebook in hand, we were proud of ourselves that we found the spot where the tour began. We put on our headphones, pressed play and started walking. Soon we were lost. We couldn’t find where the guide was telling us to go. Walking in circles became frustrated. Soon we turned off our audio guide. What the guide said was ahead of us, was not ahead of us.
We walked around entire perimeter of Notre Dame without the benefit of an audio tour. Disappointed and exhausted, we headed back towards our hotel but first I had to find a bathroom.
Finding a bathroom in Paris itself a challenge. I stopped in a department store, but when I asked where the restroom was, I only got a blank stare. Desperate, we finally stopped at a restaurant, ordered food we did not need, so that I could use the facilities.
Even though I ate and used the facilities, my mood grew sour. Tired and crabby, I was not being my best self. I was short with my husband, negative on Paris and not handling myself well.
Sometimes it’s the littlest things that get in our way to be all that God calls us to be. Big events like cancer or divorce often shake us awake and cause us to turn to God and ask what he’s up to. But the every day troubles and trials of life like a long stretch of bad weather, a pokey driver ahead of us when we’re in a hurry, or forgetting where we put our keys sends us over the edge.
Last month I wrote about God’s test. God often uses the little things to get our attention: to help us practice patience and perseverance, gentleness and love.
When I got back to the hotel I had to have a heart to heart talk with myself and with God. I confessed that I wasn’t living from my wisest most compassionate self that day. I was living from a tired, crabby, emotional self. That small self (old man, the Bible calls it) is part of me but not all of me. It is not Christ in me and that’s not who I am or want to be (new creation in Christ).
It was a powerful reminder that in big things or little things, God is always able to help us handle them in a way that glorifies him. This morning as I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room. Guess what? The toilet isn’t working.
It worked fine last night, but today, it won’t flush.
Today I passed the test.
* Later on during the week I discovered department stores, even the best ones, do not have public toilets because of the threat of terrorism.