Few things make a guy happier (with the obvious exception of things like winning at almost anything, obtaining a new tool or gadget, finding unexpected free snacks, and sex) than when his morning routine is going along with the smooth precision of an expensive Swiss watch. Conversely, few things are met with a level of such instantaneous exasperation as are those unanticipated events that seem to throw his smoothly running Swiss watch routine into a wood chipper.
So, my routine and I were cruising along in our happy place until I discovered that the clean white shirt I was planning to wear had only made it half way through the laundry process. It was clean and white, but it was all wrinkled. Happy-routine smiles were gone, as was my wife, meaning no one was around to whom I could whine about my plight until they offered to iron the shirt—leaving me in an obvious quandary. Do I just ‘man-up’ and wear it wrinkled—maybe try to add a little masculine swagger that says, “OK, it’s wrinkled. So what?” After all, Hollywood actors pay people all the time to help them dress like slobs. They proudly show the world that they’re too special to be reduced to doing things like ordinary people do—you know, like shaving, combing their hair, driving themselves places, aging normally, etc. On the other hand, if I do decide to wear it as is, Diane’s going to find out and she’ll say, “Please tell me you did not go out in public looking like that?” She won’t be impressed with the whole Hollywood image thing at all, and will probably say something like, “Look… if people aren’t chasing after you for autographs and you dress like a slob, then you’re just a slob, which would be fine, except that I happen to be married to you, and I have standards.”
Needless to say, I ironed the shirt. Sometimes a man gets cornered by circumstantial necessities that temporarily violate cardinal rules of nature, and it simply can’t be helped. I’m pretty sure my testosterone levels plummeted for some time afterward, but I hung onto enough manhood to at least maintain a frown throughout the experience, and was noticeably awkward, in case there were NSA drones looking in.
I made it through the ironing thing OK, but the episode shifted gears when I decided that prior to leaving for the event, I should move some potted flowers. Diane likes buying stuff like that because she loves to multi-task. In one fell swoop, she can beautify our little corner of the world while ensuring that I remain proficient at important family activities like digging random holes in the yard. Anyhow, already in a hurry, my well-developed left-brained, masculine obsession to be efficient when it comes to doing things I don’t want to do kicked in. Therefore, I naturally determined it would be best to carry them all in one trip—thus obeying the Scriptural admonition to ‘redeem the time’, while raking in gobs of divine efficiency approval.
There were too many little pots of yard beauty to carry without tucking a couple of them in the crook of my arm and sort of hugging them. It took some dexterity, but in the interest of efficiency it had to be done, and it actually worked out great—one of those times when you wish someone was watching, so they could be as proud of you as you are.
It was nice for a minute, but that whole “pride goeth before a fall” thing fell into place when a quick trip back through the house before leaving included a glance at the mirror. There it was, a brown muddy splotch on my clean, white, freshly ironed shirt. Two things were instantly clear. I could no longer wear the shirt, and it’s possible that the whole idea of efficiency may be of satanic origin.
God added a couple of other points He thought I might need, so I’ll share them with you. For instance, dirt can be a problem when it gets on you, and we can be dirty in places we don’t notice without a little help to see it. Like it or not, mirrors can help us with that. They may seem sometimes like devices planted in our homes by pharmaceutical people in order to drum up business for anti-depressants, but they can also be discreet and helpful friends. They can show us things we can’t see otherwise, and we’d be worse off without them. At least two things about mirrors are worth mentioning. They don’t create the problems they reveal, and they have no resolution to offer. The mirror had no ability to clean my shirt or manufacture a replacement. Help had to come from somewhere else.
The dirt alone made my shirt unusable that day. Its function did not change, nor were there flaws in its design, or the quality of its construction. It was just as well-made after the dirt got on it as it was before. The dirt didn’t affect its size, change its style, or turn it into a pair of pants, but it rendered it unsuitable.
The problem wasn’t that muddy dirt existed somewhere out in the world. It was the shirt’s direct contact with it, and the fact that it was absorbed into its very fabric. Once that contact was made, it was instantly too late. The shirt had no built-in means of removing the dirt from itself or hiding the evidence of its presence.
Here’s the point. Sin in my life as a follower of Jesus has effects like that muddy splotch on my clean white shirt. It doesn’t change what God designed me to be, and it doesn’t alter the purpose for which He created me. But until the dirt is removed and I’m made clean again, it makes me unsuitable for His use, unacceptable for close contact with Him, and undesirable as a means of expressing Himself to others. He alone can provide the cleansing I need, but He willingly offers to do it for me when I ask.
I tossed the shirt into the laundry basket that day, where it would stay until it was washed—not because it no longer qualified as a shirt, and not because I couldn’t still put it on, but because it’s my shirt, and I have standards. I wonder how many times God has places He wants to go, people to see, and things to do—but nothing fit to wear. Do you?
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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Always a timely word from Ron, thanks so much…love your insight and wit!