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CLEAN OR UNCLEAN?
Living out of a suitcase requires a skill that I lack: organization. So whenever I travel, I put my limited abilities into high gear so I’ll be sure to have everything I need.
On the last morning of a week-long trip out east, I got out of the shower and started to get dressed. But I couldn't find my clean underwear. I looked through my side of the suitcase, and then I looked through Jay's side. I looked under the suitcase, and then I looked in another suitcase. No sign of any underwear. Finally I asked Jay if he knew what had happened to it.
"Was it in a plastic bag?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered.
"Well, there were two plastic bags with underwear in them," he announced, as though the information would be news to me.
"I know," I said, "So where are they now?"
"I combined them."
"You did what?" I moaned. “Why would you do that?"
"I was just trying to help you get organized."
"But I was organized. I had them separated for a reason. One was clean and one was dirty."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know," he apologized.
"Why didn't you ask me before putting them together?"
"They all looked the same."
"Did you try smelling them?"
"Where are they now?"
"I put them all together with my dirty underwear."
After I sniffed my way through his and my dirty clothes and found a pair of underwear that seemed relatively clean, I calmed down and returned to a state of low-level civility.
When Jay sensed that it was safe to speak again, he said, "I don't want this story turning up in 'Our Daily Bread.'"
I hadn't even thought about the possibility until he mentioned it, but as soon as he warned me not to use it, I thought of a possible application. In our Bible reading, we had recently finished the book of Leviticus, which says, "You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean" (10:10).
In a world still swirling in sin thousands of years after its catastrophic collision with evil, this is an important task and God has given the assignment to his followers. What separates God’s people from everyone else is the wisdom he gives that enables them to discern good from evil, holy from common, sacred from profane, clean from unclean. And it goes far beyond clean and dirty clothes.
Shortly after we got back to Michigan, I was gone for a while one afternoon. When I got home, I went into the bedroom to see what Maggie had "accomplished" while I was away. Tucked neatly under Jay's pillow I found a pair of my dirty underwear.
I smiled as the word "justice" came to mind.
Unlike Jay, Maggie has learned to discern clean from unclean. Unfortunately, she prefers unclean. Maggie will always be attracted to old smelly clothes. They are as comforting to her as some of my old dirty sins are to me.
Thanks to Jay and Maggie, I am reminded that the kind of discernment God was trying to teach the children of Israel requires more than just physical senses, and it enables me to do tasks that are much more important than sorting dirty clothes.
Click here to read the Our Daily Bread version. :-)