Around the middle of last month I’d gone out early but had to pop back home at about 11.00 am. Thank goodness I did, because I found water pouring through the dining room ceiling! I rushed upstairs to find it was a broken valve in the toilet, then rushed down again to find the stop cock and turn off the water at the mains. At the same time, my mobile ran out of power and the landline had stopped working, so I had to go next door to phone for help. The plumber came quickly and mended the loo, and after a few hours the electrician came to turn on the circuits one by one (though he had to drain water out of some of the power sockets first). It wasn’t until 4.00 pm that water stopped dripping through the ceiling. Three weeks of central heating, dehumidifying and carpet cleaning have dried everything out, but the carpets have shrunk and begun to smell, so will need to be replaced.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how something so small can create such devastation. And how fragile our everyday lives are too. One moment everything is going along smoothly; the next, disaster strikes – a phone call with bad news, a hospital diagnosis, an error at the wheel of a car, or even a broken valve – and life goes spinning out of control.
They say that we are all only two crises away from homelessness. Sometimes a family breakdown and unexpected redundancy are all it takes. Ironically, while water was gushing through the vicarage, I was helping with the decorating at our new Hope Housing Bridlington house, which will shortly be a home for three more homeless men. They know all about the fragility and vulnerability of life – and we pray that this home will be a new start for them and the beginning of better things.
When life does fall apart, the Psalms are really worth turning to for their candid words, tried and tested in disaster. The beginning of Psalm 69 seems appropriate for our ceiling disaster: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.” And Psalm 46 reminds me that, through all the people who rallied round to help that day, the Lord God was looking after us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall in to the heart of the sea.”