From a pile of ashes… While the children slept with friends, we spent the last night of our marriage senselessly arguing over who would get the furniture, the photographs and the dishes. I even remember hiding a plastic coffee carafe under the kitchen sink. Why? I’m not sure but we often do dumb things when our lives are falling apart. By the time she drove off in a borrowed pick-up truck, the house was an empty shell of blank walls, half-empty rooms and shattered lives.
In the Bible, Job described his pain this way: “And now my heart is broken. Depression haunts my days. My weary nights are filled with pain as though something were relentlessly gnawing at my bones. With a strong hand, God grabs my garment. He grips me by the collar of my tunic. He has thrown me into the mud. I have become as dust and ashes.” (Job 30:16-19)
Like Job, my lowest point was yet to come… At precisely 8:00 AM, the next morning my doorbell rang. On the front porch stood hand-in-hand, a smiling young couple ready to meet with their minister for pre-marriage counseling. Their bright smiles soon disappeared as I walked them through the wreckage of my house towards the office. I explained what happened and assured them that I would understand if they asked another minister to handle the marriage service.
The book of Job is about tragedy and finding answers to why we suffer. Sadly, there is no reasonable explanation for Job’s pain as he cries out to God: “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer me. I stand before you and you don’t bother to look.” (Job 30:20)
“What advice could a recently separated pastor possibly tell this young couple that would enable them to prepare for a holy marriage? The answer? None! I could say nothing! At that point, I no longer felt qualified or able to give advice! All I had left was God… All I had left was God!”
At that precise moment the lowest point of my life quietly became a momentous turning point because at that instant, I utterly and completely put my dependence upon God.
“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:1-4) Job replied: “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (42:5-6)
In the old days, ashes were sometimes combined with other ingredients to make soap. Isn’t it amazing that something as dirty as ashes can be used to cleanse our body? Even more amazing is that our sinful ashes combined with repentance and the power of God can cleanse our soul!
What about your pile of ashes? We all have them you know. It could be alcohol, marriage problems, job difficulties, addictions or abuse. It does not matter what happened or who is to blame. The only thing that matters is what you do next. Who will you turn to? Where will you go?
When Job had nothing left… God appeared out of a whirlwind. At my lowest point, God taught me the true meaning of dependence. Are you ready for God’s amazing grace to transform the dirty ashes of your life into a powerful soap that will cleanse your soul? The decision is entirely yours.
A decade has come and gone. The young couple had a beautiful wedding and I remained their minister and God has continued to bless their marriage. I have remarried and continue to deeply appreciate Mell’s loving companionship. My children have matured and dad is extremely proud. Both now attend college. I continue to serve as a minister and yes, I still offer pre-marriage counseling but with a renewed sense of God-given humility. I lost the coffee carafe. Figures!