When I was 22 and single, I shared a small Chicago apartment with 3 roommates. Marti, Marsha, ClarLyn and I lived together in two bedrooms with one bathroom in perfect harmony.
I didn’t know any of them when I moved in but had heard they were three incredible young women looking for a fourth. Teaching school in Chicago’s Austin area, I was eager to be independent, so I moved in with them.
Our tidy apartment on the near north side had several unique features, one of which was a flight of down-steps immediately inside the front door. Another was iron bars on the ceiling-level windows. But we got a healthy break on the rent because it was a “garden apartment.” (Think basement.)
None of us minded living below ground level, because our basement was full of blessing. Relationships were good, laughter was plentiful and adventures were numerous. Looking back on those days, I can’t think of one negative.
Today I found myself back in a basement of blessing, the little basement beneath my cottage. It has needed my attention for 7 months, and on a 98 degree day, this cleaning chore I’ve put off indefinitely became coolly-attractive.
Although I anticipated bringing order to chaos, I didn’t anticipate uncovering blessings in the process: I found a big bag of groceries (non-perishable), cassette recordings of our preschool children, and the fiction book that convinced me to be a writer (in 7th grade).
“Raw” basements like mine have taken a bad rap. The dark, cave-like atmosphere most people dislike turned out to be a blessing to me today, a comfortable escape hatch from the heat. It was the perfect combination of staying cool while still getting something done.
How many other disguised blessings have I missed by avoiding the basements of life? These would be the low places no one wants to go, places that are emotionally cold and dark: hospital wards, funeral homes, poverty-stricken neighborhoods, homeless shelters, courtrooms, soup kitchens.
The highschoolers from our church just returned from a trip into these places, courageously participating in one uncomfortable situation after another. Stretching themselves to the limit, they made an effort not just to help those they found in life’s low places but to learn what it’s like to be there in the first place.
The report they brought back to the congregation was less about what they’d done for others than what others had done for them. In short, they came home carrying unexpected blessings found in life’s basement places. They also discovered that Jesus had beat them to these places and was busy unearthing blessings well before they arrived.
All of them learned it’s good to go to the basement.
My cottage basement blessings are small by comparison to those the high school kids found last week. But even tonight I’ll be enjoying still one more: a cool, dark night on a basement futon.
“Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:19)