Every time I open my refrigerator, a nasty smell wafts out.
No, this isn’t some strange weight-loss psychological trick. There’s something wrong in there.
Problem is, I thought I had thrown out any old leftovers: the bowl of leftover oatmeal I was sure someone would want to eat later, the steak that was so good I was sure I’d find a dish that would only need the one piece we didn’t use for supper, some random individual serving containers of dipping sauces that came inside the Styrofoam takeout container. All gone.
So why does my fridge still pollute the kitchen any time someone uses it?
I have to look further inside.
I forgot to check the deli drawer, where there was some old cheese and some questionable lunchmeat. (Do other people’s kids only want peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunches? Do they not get sick of that? Why won’t my kids eat this lunchmeat? I’m not talking about sending them a cold hot dog or some bologna. I mean nicer lunchmeat, fewer preservatives, fresh. I can rarely get them to eat the stuff. I wonder what they’d do if I DID send them a cold hot dog. Probably eat it. Gross.)
This smell problem has gone on for about a week. Two nights ago my husband texted me from home: “This fridge smells nasty!!!” It’s gotten to the point where it’s made me wonder about a dead mouse underneath it, or under a nearby floorboard. We’ve discovered a few likely culprits but not the direct source…
The thing about a deep-rooted stink is that it can sneak up on you. It’s possible for a smell to develop in strength and pungency if left unattended. If you’re around it long enough you can acclimate to it until the only time you notice it is when you’ve been away from it (ever notice the scent of someone else’s home as you arrive and wonder if other people think YOUR house has a smell that you can’t smell?).
How similar this is to our spiritual and interpersonal health.
We can have certain habits or ingrained ways of thinking which can be less than aromatic. This ain’t no sweet scent of incense, people, no offering of praise here. Interact with other people long enough and you’ll discover that, in ourselves and in others, there are some messed up ways of dealing with life. These unhealthy strategies are built up over time, and as they come more solidified, it can be harder to recognize them in ourselves without doing the often hard work of introspection.
Along the same lines, many of us have some unhealthy ways of relating to God. Sometimes we put onto God some of our own junk, or we have decided that He demands certain things from us because we demand them from ourselves or others. Sometimes we assume that our own motivations are also God’s motivations, or we take things from our experience base and use these to inform and determine our view of God.
It can end up being as gross and stinky as what I found way at the back of my refrigerator.
Be glad you can’t smell whatever is featured in the photo above.
All of this makes me wonder if I’ve been coming at many things all wrong.
Maybe I can sit in sadness without having to look for a silver lining or something positive to come out of it.
Maybe I need to take a look at my short attention span and evaluate what areas of my life might benefit from a longer amount of time given for those areas to develop.
Maybe I should think about the things I communicate to my family about my acceptance of their personalities regardless of how similar or dissimilar they are to my own personality and way of relating to the world around me.
Noticing and being mindful of the different way someone else relates can also be useful since it might not occur to me to relate any other way.
Ultimately, in order to know, I have to take a look — take out the deli drawer, the veggie drawer, the fruit drawer, the shelves, the glass out of the shelves — I have to take things apart and inspect them. I might have to take a look at the habits I’ve formed, the opinions I hold, the knee-jerk reactions I have. I might have to evaluate how well those are serving me, if they need tidying up, if they might (in some circumstances) need to be tossed out.
In the end, it took warm water, soap, a washcloth, lots of scrubbing, and scraping with a butter knife to get rid of the stinky, sticky ooze in my refrigerator. I never did identify exactly what it was. But in the process of getting down to the source of the smell, I cleaned out many other areas of my fridge (no, I did NOT wipe down every single inch of the fridge. Another of my tragic personality flaws, I’m afraid). I learned things about my fridge that I never knew before. And I learned things I should be mindful of in the future.
As I apply these same strategies into the realm of personal and spiritual development, my hope is that it will strengthen my relationships and ability to interact with the world around me. Maybe then I’ll smell of more of a fragrant offering and less of bad habits or unhelpful ways of thinking.
How about you? How do you smell these days — er — in other words, do you have areas of your life that could use some attending to or tidying up? How do you address things in your life that may be less than beneficial to you or the people around you?