Camouflaging Dirt

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Years ago when my youngest was still a baby and we were moving to another state, a house we looked at had all white cabinets, flooring, and appliances in the kitchen. I thought to myself, “This will never work with three boys.” But that is the house we ended up buying, and a funny thing happened. Because everything was white. I noticed streaks and smudges right away and cleaned them up as I noticed them. That kitchen was probably cleaner than any of my kitchens with darker floors and wooden cabinets mainly because I don’t notice dirt and smears against the wood as easily as against white. I was shocked recently to open a wooden cabinet door and notice when the light hit it just right that it was covered in dust that I had been totally unaware of. Sometimes I think I have dusted the wooden end tables or swept the parquet floor thoroughly — until the sunlight comes through the windows at just the right angle, and then I see spots I missed.

We used to have stovetops that had metal (aluminum, I think) removable burner pans that would catch all the gunk and spills, which would then get encrusted and hardened with the heat from cooking. I tried to keep on top of the spills, but eventually I had to do something with the burner pans. When I could find cheap replacements, I’d just buy those and toss the old ones. When the replacements got too expensive, I came across a tip to put the burner pans in a big pan of water with some baking soda, bring it to a boil, and then just let them sit in the hot water for a while. Somehow that did make them easier to clean even the caked-on stuff. But it was tedious. My stovetop now is totally while and doesn’t have removable burner pans, so, because the spills are more obvious, I clean them as I go and rarely have to do a major cleaning there.

Sometimes when we’re looking for furniture, appliances, or flooring, we want something that doesn’t show dirt. I still think that way in some areas. I wouldn’t want a totally black or white car: the black shows up pollen and dust, the white shows up everything else.

But I’ve come to prefer white in a kitchen, partially because it makes the room lighter, brighter, and more open and airy, but also because I like to be able to see and keep on top of the dirty stuff rather than wonder what I am going to discover with a closer look.

One church we were in had flooring in the kitchen/fellowship area that looked dirty all the time. It wasn’t unclean: it was just that the color and pattern made it look grimy. Recently we went looking for flooring for our bathroom, which came with carpeting, which is gross in a bathroom. A lot of the vinyl flooring we looked at had the same feature: a swirly pattern looked to me like smudges, and dots looked like something had spilled that needed to be cleaned up. I guess the designers figured that’s one way to hide dirtiness: camouflage it so it always looks dirty anyway.

And then sometimes we can’t see dirt when our eyesight fails. I was cleaning a windowsill recently and thought I was done until I put on my reading glasses, and then the windowsill didn’t look very clean at all. One of the signs of my mother-in-law’s aging was that she didn’t see things that weren’t clean. She had always been very industrious, but the older she got, the more we found areas that were sticky or covered in dog hair that she would have clean if she had realized, but she just didn’t see it.

I’ve often thought, when I see sunlight showing up the dust I missed, that I should probably dust or sweep at that time of day so I can see better and do a better job in that light. I’ve also thought that it was a good analogy of the need to shine the light of God’s Word on my life. Everything may look okay to me, but my spiritual sight may need adjustment. My human dimness may have camouflaged an unkind thought as justifiable or missed a selfish motive. And I need to compare myself not to my fellow creatures with their own smudges, but to the blazing holiness of the Son of God. Why would we do that when none of us can come close at all, when we look so shabby and dingy in that light? Because that’s the best way to see what needs to be taken care of. And instead of fearing to come to that light, we can have confidence that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we can have assurance that we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

One of our sons, when he was very little, used to have a hard time admitting he had done anything wrong. Often we took him to Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (I John 1:8a). As long as we cover, camouflage, excuse, or miss seeing our sins, faults, and flaws, we’re stuck with them. But if we see, acknowledge, confess our sins to the Lord and forsake them, He will cleanse us.

Sometimes when we discover a mess we had missed, we can be discouraged at the work needed to clean it up. Sometimes when I start to clean one area, I notice five others that need work, and it can be discouraging. But spiritually, Jesus has done all the work. He took all of our sin and all of God’s wrath towards it on Himself on the cross. When we believe on Him, our sinfulness is exchanged for His righteousness. Though we still have to battle sin in this life, we can be cleansed, and in heaven we’re given white robes, the Bible says. I sometimes joke that I can’t wear white til I get to heaven because of my propensity to spill or brush against something messy and end up with a spotted garment. What a joy it will be in that day to have sin totally removed so it can’t touch us any more. But what a joy in our day that though our “sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

3 thoughts on “Camouflaging Dirt

  1. I love your spiritual application here, Barbara, but I must say it reminded me that it was time to give that white stovetop another deep clean! A friend of mine who raised seven children told me that tidying up as you go is a way to free yourself from having to put aside hours to do that chore. Another friend called it “being kind to her future self.”

  2. Pingback: My favorite posts of the year | Stray Thoughts

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