My grandfather died in 1987. Since then I’ve helped maintain the yard. No one lives in the house. Everything, for the most part, is just the way my grandfather left it. The house is beginning to decay. His old truck is about rusted down. But the family outhouse is, by far, in the worst shape of all.
As a boy, it was an experience to go into that dark outhouse and be able to peer out at the world. I watched the chickens passing in the yard, the people on the back porch, and yet no one could see you inside the dark outhouse, or so you hoped.
The outhouse stood until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged South Mississippi and laid the old outhouse on its side. For years, it lay there continuing to decay. As the days passed, I began to have an interest in the old outhouse. Every time I saw it, I would ponder how much the old outhouse and I had in common.
The wood covering the outhouse did not start out as an outhouse. Originally, it had a higher, nobler purpose. It was used in a factory and served its purpose for many years until, riddled with holes, it needed to be replaced. Once laid aside, it was retrieved by my grandfather for a less noble use. It became the family outhouse.
The same thing happens to people. We wake up one morning doing something we thought we’d never do, or in a place we thought we’d never be. God’s original purpose was ruined by some trial or some sin that took its toll on your own soul. Now, like the wood of the old outhouse, your soul is riddled with holes. No longer worthy to serve the purpose for which God created you, you became something less. You are what you are, but you know in your heart you are not what God intended you to be. If so, then like me, you have something in common with that old outhouse.
Every time I passed the outhouse door, I would think of how its only purpose was to hide the entrance to a dark, dirty hole. I knew that because, as a boy, I would sneak into the outhouse with a few matches. While inside, I would light some paper and throw it down into the hole to see what was there. Boys never ponder the possibility of methane explosions. Curiosity killed the cat, and I am sure more than a few boys. From then on, I knew what was in that hole, and I was never quite so comfortable in that outhouse. That hole was dark and dirty and swarmed by creatures that few of us would want inching toward our backside.
Circling the old outhouse while cutting grass, the Lord reminded me of things my that it and my heart shared in common. There were times when my heart was nothing more than a dark, dirty hole. When the Lord shined the Light of His presence into my heart, He exposed things that made me more than a little uncomfortable about who I was.
Perhaps, you would admit that the same thing is true about you. There are things in your heart and life that are displeasing to the Lord. If we could see what God sees, we would discover our hearts darker and dirtier than we dreamed possible.
When Hurricane Katrina came along, and blew the outhouse over, the dark dirty hole was exposed for the world to see. After that terrible storm, the outhouse was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
As I would pass by that outhouse, the Lord reminded me of how people’s lives become just like this old outhouse. God has a purpose for them. They become unfit for that purpose and become something less. At the center of their life is a dark, dirty hole. One day some storm comes into along and turns things upside down, exposing a weak, vulnerable, sin riddled, dark-hearted soul.
Maybe that happened to you. Some storm came into your life and shattered your dreams. As you look at your life, you realize you can no longer serve the purpose God intended.
The more I passed it, the more these things came to mind. I thought about people whose sin-riddled, storm-ravaged lives have been left in shambles. Many feel forgotten and abandoned by God.
That is where this story takes a turn. Because as I began to ponder those things, it seemed God was giving me an affection for the old outhouse door. I longed to have it to make it my own. I wanted to redeem it. I wanted to take what once served a more noble purpose in a factory—that had come to serve a lesser purpose—and I wanted to take it home and tell its story. So that’s what I did! I brought it to church one Sunday and stood it right in front of the communion table as an illustration of God’s desire to redeem people whose lives were left in ruin by some sin or some storm.
Are you one of those people? God can lift you from the rubble of where you are and redeem you for a new and higher purpose. Everything that is true about that old outhouse is true about you. Nevertheless, God still loves you and wants to make something beautiful out of your life!
I never passed that outhouse rubble that one single verse didn’t come over and over again to my heart. It is with that verse that I won’t to conclude today. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB)
The Lord, who prompted me to see potential in an old outhouse door, sees potential in you. Though your life is sin-riddled and storm ravaged, perhaps even in shambles, He can raise you up from ruin and redeem you for a wonderful purpose all His own!
Photo by Amy Reed