I flipped my head upside down, scrunching and shaking out the curls, and that’s when I saw it: my toilet. I stayed upside down and I laughed, to myself of course, because I knew I had to tell you right away about what my toilet says. It’s urgent.
The name of my toilet, my toilet in my bathroom at my seminary, is called “Church.” Sure, it’s probably someone’s last name, but I don’t care. Underneath “Church,” my toilet says, “Easy * Clean & Change.”
I can’t make this up.
This is urgent, white-wall people: Open your eyes and give thanks for this toilet that speaks the truth, what we need to hear. In an instant, I was so thankful for that first day here at seminary when I got food poisoning and puked all over this toilet, again and again. And I’m so thankful for what I do to this toilet every single day. (I’m sorry for the images, but we must go there.)
To the table leader at the megachurch who demanded lengthy participation, probed for memorized Bible verses to defend that poor woman’s feelings about how Jesus lived fearless, turned the welcome into a white-walled classroom with rulers slapped on bad students’ wrists: There’s nothing easy about this woman showing up to church on her own for the very first time. She doesn’t feel clean from what she did last night. And she won’t go home to a quick and easy change of her entire life, a single mom who fights with every breath to understand who to follow which way.
There’s nothing easy about a mountaintop experience where you feel God’s presence without an ounce of doubt, directly followed by running for your life into a deep cave because you feel so alone and you beg God to just send a gentle whisper into the darkness.
With a plague lurking around the corner, it’s not easy to depend on God for change, for healing, when the only thing wiped clean is the hospital counter that the atheist sterilizes because he’s the only one doing anything to help anyone stay alive.
And where’s the easy way to the church from the mental hospital? Go ahead and clean your glass window you’re trapped behind one more time. See if that changes how you see the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
Say a prayer to St. Jude, the Patron of Lost Causes and Hopeless Cases, in the hospital’s church and see if that easily brings his dead daughter back to life.
I attended the funeral of a friend who died way too young. I cried harder than I ever remember crying, while reuniting with friends from the past at the same time. In that moment, yes, I felt the light in the darkness. But was it easy to walk into that church to thank God for the short life of my friend who I never went to see in her last days in the hospital? No. That makes you want to leave the church to do many unclean things that are so much easier to feel joy in than sitting in those pews next to deep, deep pain and grief.
I walked through the Auschwitz concentration camp, into the gas chamber where hundreds, no thousands, were killed instantly. It was so hot going up and down those narrow stairways, but mostly it suffocated me because of the mounds of heaping suitcases and shoes and hair of those who were either worked to their death or slaughtered instantly in the same place they called the promise land. The train cars opened up to dump dead bodies that didn’t even make it to the slaughterhouse. Houses just outside the fences went on living normal lives, like nothing was happening. I saw this all, with my own eyes, as the smell of death left a stench that will never fade, no matter how many years.
It was too much to see. Too much to process. I didn’t pray during that death tour. I couldn’t. The only words that lingered in the air – How? Why? HowWhyHowWhy?
Thanks to my toilet, I am reminded of all of my new friends in the fiction that I’m reading this semester. These fictitious characters, most of them don’t believe in God; they question and they doubt and they wrestle with good and evil. They ask questions that we don’t ask, us Christians with simple answers that don’t make any sense: “Because the Bible tells us so.”
I’m sticking with my new fictitious friends who I know would puke all over my toilet with me the next time it tries to slap a happy slogan on church as an easy way to fix all those problems swirling around in that toilet bowl.