This past Monday night, after flying to Atlanta and then driving to Warner Robins, GA, I dragged my suitcase into my hotel room and opened it up.
To find disaster had struck.
My toothbrush holder was smashed into smithereens. My snacks I had packed were crushed (I kind of expected that). But, best of all, my shampoo bottle was all caved in and had emptied its contents into the bottom of my suitcase. All over my work clothes for the next day. And, by all over, I mean all over. Fortunately, it didn’t get inside the plastic document case that was also in my suitcase. But, good grief, what a mess.
I was tired and frustrated, and had work to do, and wanted to go out with my co-workers once everyone arrived. But I first had to deal with my clothes. It would not have bode well for me to show up on Tuesday morning in the only clothes that were not covered in shampoo: My orange pajama bottoms and a black t-shirt. Like a pumpkin. Yeah. not an option.
So I gathered the wonderfully smelling clothes up and trudged down to the lobby, where I had to use an ATM to get cash (incurring a $2.50 charge fee), and then ask for quarters at the desk–$4.00 worth ($2 for wash, $2 for dry) and purchase laundry detergent (another $2.00). So, now I was up to $8.50 to wash this one load of laundry.
I threw the clothes into the washer, slammed my quarters into the machine, and dumped the detergent in and pushed the “START” button, and stomped back to my room. I set a timer and dug back into work tasks that needed to be completed.
When the timer went off, down to the lobby I went. My intent: Throw my clothes into the dryer while I went out with co-workers. But, that didn’t happen.
When I walked into the laundry alcove, I was greeted with a big, digital “E” for Error on the washing machine, and a washing machine barrel that was full of nothing but suds–a white wall of suds:
People. There is no water in that barrel. That is all suds. All suds. And when I opened the door, little suds went floating through the air.
I guess maybe I should have rinsed them out first.
Or not have added washing detergent.
The poor hotel front desk attendant was as southern as southern can get. He kept telling me “Bless your heart. Bless your heart.”
Ok, whatever. Don’t bless my heart. I just broke your machine. I’m sorry. Give me 8 more quarters (Bringing the grand total to $12.50) so I can rewash these blasted things using rinse only, and dry them. And hopefully finish by midnight.
I am ridiculous. But gosh, it was too, too funny. And, of course, my coworkers all managed to arrive in the midst of this disaster, which made it even funnier, as we all stood in the doorway of the laundry room, snapping pics and trying to decide the best course of action.
They went out for the evening. I stayed and did laundry.
Everything turned out fine. I arrived at breakfast Tuesday morning dressed appropriately, with the added bonus of fantastic smelling clothes.
I’m back home this evening, though, and thinking about this past week. And, the past several weeks.
There is a passage in Galatians–Galatians 5, actually–that comes to my brain tonight. If I am reading it correctly, it has to do with legalism, which is something I am prone to. I love a good set of rules. But legalism is not what is on my soul tonight. Many other things are.
The Galatians had been doing well, but then they tripped up and allowed themselves to be influenced by false teachers. They became foolish. And Paul admonished them hard. Harder than any of his other letters to other congregations.
What I am really drawn to, tonight, though, are these words right here:
Paul is addressing their pull to false teachers and to legalism. But his words could apply to a wide variety of things that pull all of us. Our own tendency to sin.
“You were running well.”
Yes. So why did you stop?
“Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
Sometimes, it is we who hinder ourselves, from obeying what we know to be truth, through our own sin.
“This persuasion is not from him who calls you.”
That seems obvious enough; but sometimes we need to preach it to ourselves, again. And again. Remind ourselves that God calls us. To Himself. To obedience.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
And so. Just like a little detergent added to shampoo creates a mountain of machine-breaking suds, one step, or two, or three down the slippery slope away from the direction one knows they should be going creates a mudslide that is difficult to recover from.
You were running well. And then you stopped. And then you stepped on the slope that leads away from what God wants from you–away from obedience–and, well, disaster.
A little leaven, a little soap, a wrong decision here, a bad choice there—and it works its way throughout the fabric of your life. And it becomes difficult to fight your way back uphill.
You know, we often look at the end of Galatians 5–where Paul talks about the “Fruit of the Spirit” with this kind of nostalgic, sugary-sweet sentiment. We cross-stitch the words “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control” (often with ubiquitous pictures of fruit because, well, —-“fruit”—, and hang them on our walls.) We rattle off these words as if they are beautiful sentiments.
They are, I suppose, but they are also not. That is not how Paul intended them to be, I don’t think, filled with saccharin sweetness.
Because, if you read the rest of Galatians 5, you will see that he was admonishing them, hard. He was telling them to stop their slide, and climb back to where they knew they needed to be. To get back to running in the right direction. To stop listening to false teachers, and lies, and allowing themselves to be pulled to things that would destroy them.
And, sometimes we need admonishment, too. A kick. From people who care about us. And from God, who loves us.
Hebrews 12:11 states this:
Isn’t it interesting, that this verse that is speaking of discipline, would also speak of the results of that discipline as being “fruit”? It hearkens to the fruit we see in Galatians 5: Love…joy…patience..kindness…and so on. And so forth.
Sometimes we need to sense God saying “Shhh” to our souls.
And other times we need to sense him saying “Stop. Turn around. Start running again. Toward Me.”
And then we need to do just that.