Monday, November 12, 2007

The red blitz, German toilet and fetal position or the return of Carsten.

The red blitz, German toilet and fetal position or the return of Carsten.

Last week I introduced you to my friend Carsten, the guy that would throw up if he smelled something gross. While talking to my wife about the post she reminded me about the German story. Suddenly I knew that I had a trilogy on my hands. So here without further ado is part two:

After college, Carsten decided to move to Germany for a year and work at a college. He was born in Switzerland and has traveled extensively so it wasn’t that unusual. Carsten got a job as a janitor’s assistant. In addition to doing odd jobs, Carsten had a lot of time to read and study the word. Everything was going well until one of the toilets on campus backed up.

The head janitor was a gruff German that Carsten called “The Red Blitz.” He called him this because when he yelled his face turned red and he spoke in rapid German. It was not a complicated nickname.

Standing in the small bathroom, the Red Blitz was unable to see what the problem was without removing the toilet from the floor. So for the next few minutes, that is exactly what they did. Then they took a snake, a long thin plumbing tool, and weaved it down the open drain hole on the floor. They pumped some water down into the hole in an attempt to clear the passageway but nothing was working.

At this point, the Red Blitz yelled some quick German at Carsten and left the room. In the email that Carsten sent from Germany he said that he was fairly confident that he had been instructed to stand watch over the hole in the floor. And that’s what he did. With hands on knees and eyes on hole he bent over the spot and stared into the dark abyss.

A few minutes later he remembers hearing a faint gurgling noise. It was not ominous, not at first anyway, but just the small sound of water bubbling, bubbling, bubbling. So he looked closer, inching his face a few feet from the hole. Suddenly with a force that knocked him back, a thick jet of gray water erupted out of the hole, making a direct hit on Carsten’s face. It was at this point that Carsten wrote a sentence in his email that still haunts me:

“You know how I’m a mouth breather?”

In an instant, the boy that throws up when he smells a paper mill was on the floor, laying in a pool of waste. He lost count of how many times he threw up but told me he first had to spit out all of the grossness that had in fact landed in his mouth. Minutes later the Red Blitz found Carsten in the fetal position, emptying a long emptied stomach.

Later that day, in the cafeteria, someone asked Carsten about the incident and he threw up again. That afternoon when he tried to lay on his bed and read a book he kept thinking about it and threw up again. Finally, realizing that as long as he was awake he was going to be throwing up, Carsten decided to take a nap.

I wish there was some sort of literary ginger, that small root you chew between bites of sushi so that your mouth can easily transition between different flavors. There’s really no good transition between puking uncontrollably and God. (I have some friends that will say, “That reminds me” when they want to change subjects in a conversation but that’s just a nice way to say, “Hey, let’s talk about me now.”)

The lesson in all of this, I think, is that when we don’t understand what we’re supposed to do, doing something else can be toxic. And sometimes, for me, God feels about as easy to understand as the Red Blitz. Before I understand what he wants me to do, sometimes before I’ve even asked, I run to put my face in front of an open hole. And then I express outrage and surprise when my impatience and confusion leaves me sick on the floor.

I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do. Maybe there’s something you’re on the verge of exploring and God’s silence is just a desire for you to wait. Maybe he’s been trying to call you into action and your danger lies in just standing still. It’s hard to tell sometimes, especially if we’ve clogged up the communication with bad decisions. There are some days when God feels so close I can hear his whispers and others when after a day of failing his voice sounds like it’s coming over a walkie talkie, underwater, in a cave. Static, sinfulness, weak signal, and there I am with a hole in the floor and a question in my heart.

I really hope this Christmas book I’m going to have available in a few weeks isn’t me putting an open mouth over a sewer drain. (Didn’t John Grisham say that same thing once about something he was writing?) But I trust that God will reveal the next steps and just like the Red Blitz picked a shaking Carsten off the floor, he will comfort me should I fall again and again and again.

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