We recently had to replace a very old toilet in our home. When the plumber, Trent, reviewed my options for which new models to choose from, he was non-committal. “This one’s okay; this one’s pretty good, except the neck can cause problems; this one has a fancy handle if you like that.” Then he came to a toilet called the Gerber Viper. Trent’s whole countenance shifted, and his face lit up. “This toilet is amazing. The design is as close to perfect as it comes. It will flush anything through your pipes. The suction is unmatched. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other models, but it’s worth every penny.” Before leaving, Trent added, “We have a money-back guarantee. But if you get the Viper, believe me, you won’t need to use it.”
Trent’s endorsement of the Gerber Viper really made an impression on me, and it got me thinking about how we talk about the things we love. A plumber who gushes (no pun intended) about a toilet is one thing, but how do we as Christians talk about the God we claim as Lord of all? I often feel at a loss describing who God is, with the constraints of human language, and I’ve found that the sweeping poetry of the Psalms can be a good place to start when I don’t know what to say. Psalm 91 is one example of this, its vibrant and detailed description evident verse by verse:
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent. Psalm 91:1-10
Inspired by Trent the plumber, I’ve written a paraphrase of Psalm 91, applying now to the Gerber Viper toilet rather than to God:
Whoever sits in the shelter of the Gerber Viper
will abide in the shadow of the almighty toilet.
Surely it will save you
from the toddler who flushes repeatedly, or never
and from the child who fills it with toilet paper.
It will uphold you with its immense swirling power,
and because of that flush, you won’t have to call Trent;
the Viper’s faithfulness is your sanitation shield and drainage defense.
You will not fear the terror of the nighttime overflow,
nor the water on the bathroom floor,
nor on the basement floor,
nor on the dining room ceiling.
A thousand magnets,
ten thousand small plastic toys,
may fall in the bowl, flushed into your pipes,
by your progeny.
You will only hear the flush with your ears,
and know the recompense of your good investment.
Because you have made the Viper your sitting place—
no sewage evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague of plumbing come near your household.
It seems silly, and maybe irreverent, to talk about a toilet with the same language we use to talk about God. But substituting a material thing into Psalm 91 can show us that, as much as we cherish our possessions, this excess of praise is really only suitable for God. Otherwise we’re left with an overflow of adjectives and illustrations that don’t belong. What kind of language do we use to talk about God? When you struggle to find words, as many do, listen to the worshipful majesty of the Psalms, and perhaps even say them aloud. Let us praise our products and possessions appropriately and leave our gushing for God.