For the last two weeks, every time I would enter our back basement I smelled something unpleasant. At first I thought it was the remnant smell of some wet wool carpets I had been cleaning and drying. Then I wondered if the dogs had “done something”. Next I was convinced that the sump pump was emitting an unused odor. I even added some bleach water to pump it through and freshen it up.
Still the smell remained.
It was only when I was getting some food out of our small basement freezer that I discovered the problem- there were rotting potatoes in our “root cellar” basket. I keep the extra potatoes and onions in a basket in our back cellar. It is cool enough there to keep the items for a while.
When I looked through the basket I found the source- a small rotting area on one of the potatoes. What is amazing to me it that something so small could be so odiferous. One would have thought the entire basket was rotting.
It is another reminder of how small things in our lives can matter: how a mean comment in our youth can dictate our views of ourselves or how a small decision may change the trajectory of our life.
They say "don't sweat the small stuff", but most of life is made up of small stuff- the day to day grind or the proverbial rat race. For me it is the little stuff that trips me up and makes the air around me unpleasant. It is my lack of discipline (Why did I spend thirty minutes watching something useless on youtube?) or hesitation (All I needed to do was to introduce myself to that new member at the club) or laziness (I just don't feel like updating my linked in page) that creates and spreads further problems. First of all I berate myself for not doing a simple task. Then the more I don't do it, the more it becomes a problem and the more self-loathing I experience.
The basket of rotting potatoes is also an example of how even a small sin, that which keeps us from God, can permeate the life around us. If I had left the rotting potato in the basket, it would have completely spread the rot to the others and the whole basket would've been ruined.
My heart breaks when I hear someone feel distant from God because of some small issue- may have been a choice of the person's own doing or one that happened to him/her. Either way, it has continued to grow and spread so that his/her life now has become so distanced from God that there is feeling of hopelessness and never getting things right. There even becomes an adjustment in one's thinking that this distance is normal and will always be this way.
The thing is- you can always clean the basket. In getting rid of the basement odor, I had to identify its source. Some times we need a good self examination of what is going on in our lives. David in the Psalms asks that God examine his heart. That is a good place for all of us to start when we cannot locate the unpleasantness in our own lives- asking God to show where we have fallen short. Then clean the basket: ask for forgiveness from God, or in the case of negative attributes (like my laziness) plan to be proactive with positive attributes. Finally, proceed on the new path. Start behaving or living your life in this clean environment. It doesn't have to be a big production. Just like small negative things add up, so do small positive things.
What about you? Any rotten potatoes in your life? Do you even smell anything bad? Or, have you lived with the smell so long you don't even notice it? What steps can you do to "clean that basket"?