John came into the kitchen as I was loading the dishwasher and asked me, “Hey, do you have some Febreze or something like that?” I grabbed the bottle from under the sink and asked him what was up. “Oh, I think it was just all the kids in the room. It’s kind of stuffy.” We had hosted a dinner for 40, including a bunch of kids, at our house after a weekend conference. John and Jennie, a wonderful newlywed staff couple at UCSB, camped out in our TV room on the aerobed over the weekend while attending the conference.
I didn’t think anything more of it until I walked into the room later on after they left. One whiff and I said out loud, “This isn’t stuffy. It just plain stinks!” The stink was on the level of eye watering. I looked around the room and finally sniffed out the source. We had brought in Baha Fresh for dinner (I think of Jodi when I eat Baha Fresh. She missed it while living overseas in Central Asia and it was one of the first things she wanted to eat when she returned to California). Nestled in their incredibly tasty tacos are finely chopped up onions and cilantro. Emphasis on the finely part.
During our dinner the kids ended up holing up in the TV room with the Wii and a good movie and apparently one the kids was not fond of onions in their tacos. Scattered all over the side table and the floor were these tiny onion pieces. I started cleaning up the mess and the room started smelling better, but each time I returned into the room I would catch a whiff of stink. The table was wiped down and I had picked off the onions in the carpet. I couldn’t figure out why the smell lingered. Finally I got down on my hands and knees. I put my head under the table and like a blood hound, sniffed, sniffed, sniffed. At last I saw the final remnants. I found tiny pieces of onion wedged in the carpet by the table leg. The table legs formed a V the way the two pieces of wood came together. The tiny onions were hiding out right in the pointy part of the V.
After successfully extracting the last of the onion I marvelled that the air was clear. No need for Febreze or even an open window. Then, God’s Spirit whispered in my ear,” Unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment stinks like those onions. When you choose to forgive, the air is clear.” Then the faces of people who I have forgiven for hurtful things done both willfully and unintentionally came to mind. My heart was truly free from bitterness and unforgiveness and I was able, with integrity, to smile and wish well for all of them. I have tried to mask the stink in my heart with external things like positive thinking and talking myself out of my feelings, pouring myself into work or other numbing past times or flat-out denial. But I have found that the hard work of forgiveness and letting go is what really sets us free. I think it is a good and wise practice to regularly do a heart check and ask God’s Spirit to point out if there are areas of stink in the far corners of my heart. No amount of Febreze can eradicate the stink, so it’s best to eliminate the source.