On July 18 we hosted a family event at our house for my parents and brothers and their families. For dinner I cooked up these two beauties (with the help of my lovely oldest daughter).
(FYI: They were very very tasty...the chickens, not the daughters.)
After dinner and fun and after everyone went home, the kids helped me clean up the kitchen and put everything away and life went back to its regularly scheduled level of crazy.
As the week plodded on, I began to notice and odd smell in the kitchen. I took out the garbage (which normally remedies any foul scent in the kitchen area) and went on with my day.
But the smell didn't leave. In fact, it continued to get worse as the days went on. I sniffed under cabinets and washed every rag, towel or sponge I could find but I still didn't locate the offending party.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon (one week after the party), I decided enough was enough and I was going to locate the source of the scent or else!
So, as I stuck my nose in corners and crevices and tried to follow it to the stench I was surprised when the trail led to my fridge. I had cleaned out the fridge a couple days before thinking maybe something had gotten knocked behind a shelf or was stuck in the back of a drawer.
But then, surprisingly, my nose led me to the top of the fridge. And as I explored further I removed the lid of the roasting pan pictured above and was assaulted by waves of grossness.
Someone had put the roasting pan back up on the fridge where it rests when it isn't being used without making sure the pan was clean...and no one realized the foul trouble until a full week later.
There was vile chicken juice and bits of rotting fat and all other kinds of ugh clinging to the inside of the pan and I had to hold back the dry heaves as I took the whole thing outside to spray it with the hose. So disgusting. After scrubbing it with soap and running the inner pan through the dishwasher on high heat (twice) I think it is finally back to a usable state.
But all of this revolting, filthy mess could have been avoided if we had just take a moment to clean the thing the day we used it instead of putting the lid on, pushing it aside and allowing the muck to hang out and make itself at home for a week (inviting it's horrid, putrid friends over for tea and crumpets in the mean time).
And that's when I got to thinking about repentance.
Too often, I think, we do this exact thing in our own lives.
No, I don't mean we leave chicken remnants around to rot, but we do this same thing in another way.
We make a mistake -- do something we shouldn't, hurt someone, cause a mess, sin or whatever else -- and instead of dealing with it right then and there, cleaning it up and trying to scrub out the trouble and wipe away the hitch, we let embarrassment or pride or fear or guilt or anger talk us into pushing our failing into the corner of our soul where it isn't easily seen. There it festers and grows -- slowly, mind you -- but it always grows.
I heard a statement from a political type this week (yes, I do have a political side) where the man said something like he didn't think he had ever really repented or asked forgiveness from God for things he had done wrong. He just tried to recognize problems and move forward in a better direction.
And I agree that that is an important part of the process, but what about the pungent mess we are already standing in? What about the tiny seed of grime we have planted in our heart and left to rot and decay and warble its rancid aroma all through our soul because we didn't bother to clean it out.
In time it becomes very very wretched. It stinks so badly it hurts. Eventually we either can't take it anymore so we vomit it out and finally choose to address the issue, or we try to put a lid on it and pretend it still isn't there.
But like the stench in my kitchen, ignoring it won't make it go away.
Why so many deathbed confessions and sobbing, long overdue admissions of guilt if removing the grunge is of no real value?
And that is why God gave us repentance.
When we choose to repent of our failings and do our best to sponge out the sludge, God helps us wash away any stubborn stain and remove any vulgar odor and return our soul to its original spotless beauty. That is a major reason why He sent His perfect son, Jesus Christ, to Earth. (Read more about repentance and forgiveness in my favorite talk on the subject here. For example, "Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life. Pretending there is no sin does not lessen its burden and pain. Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life.")
And the wonderful part is that no matter what we have done or how long we have let it fester, our Father in Heaven is willing to help us wipe it all away and become clean again. It may not be easy. It may take hard work and deep, powerful effort that leave us sore and tender inside. But when it is gone -- whatever it is -- it is really gone.
That is a precious thing.
I'm awfully grateful for the gifts of repentance and forgiveness in my life. I get to use them pretty often.
It was nice to have an up close and personal reminder of this miraculous blessing from God, even if it came with a really gross mess from a foul fowl.