I was talking to my friend as she cleaned off the top of her dryer. As a large, flat surface in the room connecting her house to her garage, her dryer was a convenient dumping spot for all sorts of debris, a backwater where flotsam washes up and is left stranded by the ebbing tide.
At our house, our dryer just collects dust were-rabbits, but we have The Shelf that serves the same function. It’s also just inside the garage door. Currently it provides a temporary home for a semi-disposable plastic container a friend send home leftovers in, some cans of organic cat food our resident Cleopatra spurned, two dust masks, a nightlight, a monkeypod candy dish, an old wristwatch with the hands proclaiming 1:45, a green milk jug lid, and one tube of Crystal Lite “On the Go” lemonade. I’d sort through the pile but it’s easier to let it sit.
My friend’s pile was similarly random. Plastic spray bottle lids, paper clips, a piece from a broken suitcase latch, safety pins, rubber bands, expired coupons, a jewelry box with the paper half torn off. And one toilet paper holder. Not the cardboard tube that goes inside the roll, but rather the spring-loaded plastic rod that supports the roll on the wall. How odd, I said.
She explained that years ago, when they first moved into their house, she had been shopping when she came across a replacement toilet paper rod that was scented. Have nasty odors in your bathroom? Use this! So she bought one and put it in her guest bath. The original rod, that had come with the house, had somehow ended up on her dryer.
I have never used room fresheners because one of our daughters is allergic to many artificial odors, and I didn’t want to take any chances—plus I never liked the idea of adding more chemicals to our air—but out of curiosity, I asked her if the scented rod had worked. She said that yes, at first, it put out a lovely “spring fresh” fragrance. As time went by, the perfumey smell dissipated, so she would soak tissues in some scented oil or cheap cologne and stuff them into the hollow tube. At this point, she hadn’t thought about it in years.
I mentioned that in the hundreds of times I’d been to her house, her bathroom had always seemed fine. In fact, it was sparkling, even when she was overworked and overtired.
I’ve been in other places where I was afraid to use the facilities. In one place, the occupant considered housework to be beneath him, so he refused to do it. Since he lived alone and wouldn’t hire help, well, let’s just say I would have felt much more secure with a flamethrower in hand. I remember tiptoeing into the bathroom, convinced that if I lifted the lid, some slimy and evil Thing would emerge from the plumbing. And yes, it reeked.
My friend’s bathroom smelled fine because it was clean. Odors don’t just show up on their own. If something stinks, it’s because something is wrong. Covering it up might help for the moment, but in the long run, you’d better find out what’s causing the stench, and face it down.
How much like my life that is. I do something wrong and stupid and make a mess, then try to cover it up with misdirection and good deeds and air freshener. From the outside, everything seems just as spiritual as can be, while on my inside, something is rotting.
Sometimes I procrastinate on the cleaning until others around me notice the smell. Other times, the Holy Spirit pokes me hard enough that I can apply the Lysol of repentance before my condition becomes noticeable. I’d like to say I’m improving, but sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. Maybe, I need to think of dirty toilets more often. I don’t want Jesus saying to me,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27