Monday, September 16, 2013

Right between the eyes

I look like everybody else. I have what most everybody else has. Right between my eyes, halfway down my face, just above my lips, I have a nose.
Now, for some reason, my nose works very well. Not only does it help me breathe, but the olfactory function has been fine-tuned from childhood!
This has not always served to my advantage.
I can still smell the less-than-pleasant-to-my-8-year-old senses "aroma" of hot boiled brussels sprouts. I can still smell the butter that coated their somewhat bitter leaves, and I remember the smell fading as the heat left the sprouts which never did leave my plate, even after one hour of sitting at my seat.

This story, I am sure, would be different if my mother told it. The perspective of an elementary school student is often skewed and embellished. (p.s. it was fun to search "brussels sprouts child" images!)

Nevertheless, my nose is very sensitive to smells. This heightened after having children and has not left me. I enjoy very pleasant smells, including all baked goods which I am privileged to cook.
I am sensitive to how a person's house smells. I have childhood memories of visiting friends and thinking their house smelled strange, and as an adult, one of my hostessing fears is that my house will smell offensive to guests and they will not know how to tell me.

This weekend, there was an unpleasant smell in our kitchen. I supposed it was the garbage disposal or perhaps some of the dishes in the sink. After running the dishes through the dishwasher and cleaning the disposal, and even after changing the trash can, there was still a residual odor.

The smell was not pronounced, it was more of an afterthought. Was there truly a bad smell or was it my imagination? (my nose has an imagination! It will smell things that simply aren't there.)

With the flurry of events this weekend I didn't give this much thought until today when the dishes had again stacked up. (this is happening more often with our youngest having reached age 2. We used to have maybe two times a week of the dishwasher-now it's almost a guaranteed "every other day" chore)
As I tackled the stack and my sink and counters re-emerged, I also began rinsing out our plastic containers and empty tin cans for the recycling bin. That's when I discovered it.
One tiny can of "tomato puree" that hadn't been thoroughly rinsed had been closed with its lid on, waiting to be rinsed and recycled.
Sadly, a couple busy days of neglect and some semi-warm temperatures provided the perfect environment for organic growth.
I will not detail the contents, just that what was once red was now black, and no amount of rinsing would cleanse this can for the recycle bin.

This can also be true of our Christian life. Something can seem off or not-quite-right. We will address the obvious symptoms, whilst our well-intended efforts in a selfish direction sit like that can. Had we attended to it properly, taken care of it immediately, this could have resulted in good. Even our good deeds, when improperly motivated, can result in blackness within our hearts.

And? The Creator of all has a sense of smell even more vivid than my own. He can smell every thought and idea and I am more than guilty of those unpleasant thoughts than I care to dwell on.
Thankfully, He makes all things new!
Old King James was the version of 1 John 1:9 that I grew up with, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Just like that can of tomato puree, I want to be cleansed and used for good purposes. I may be able to hide that sin inside me for a while, but that smell will leak out a bit at a time until eventually all that darkness spills out and it's ugly and awful! All around me can be cleaned up and all those obvious things I deal with can be wiped out, but truly, our deceitful hearts need to be addressed as soon as possible. 

Had I a little more dedication to saving the world from my tin can in the trash, I could have used soap and a rubber glove (you wanted me to do this bare-handed?) and cleaned the can. My recycling efforts are a bit on the lazy side, and sadly, I did not follow through on the recycled effort.

God, on the other hand, is always willing to make the effort. Sometimes we need a little rinse, sometimes soap, sometimes we need scalding water and a little bleach to clean off the sin. To Him, all sin is the same, and as Christians I think we need that reminder. Our pride is just as ugly as the outward addictions that others struggle against-perhaps even more so. What good is our outward polish if our inside is rotten and moldy and smelly?

For now, we'll just remember to rinse our cans right away before setting them on the counter for recycling. And? I'll also remember to come to God right away, because I don't want to be a stinky can.


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