Sunday, May 8, 2011

on litterbox living

Do you have a cat? Or a rabbit? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about with this litterbox revelation. When I was in university, I lived in this one rented room with my cat (dear, sweet Anisah; who would sleep at my head purring like a motorboat engine and fetched balls better than any dog I’ve ever known). She used a litterbox of course, but being the young/busy/irresponsible/lazy owner that I was then, I wasn’t particularly religious about changing it.

As any responsible cat owner would/should know, the litterbox should essentially be cleaned out as soon as the cat has used it, and then given a thorough clean about once or twice a week. Meaning, as soon as you know your cat has pooped or peed in the box, you should go scoop out the stuff, and then once or twice a week, throw out all the litter, scrub the box clean, and put in new litter.

Well I’m sorry to admit that I wasn’t exactly fastidious about doing this in those “younger days”. Of course I would clean out the whole box “now and then”, but the reality was more along the lines of scooping out the messy parts and occasionally putting more litter in on top. What would happen with that kind of routine was simply this – the litterbox never got truly cleaned. The icky bits were merely masked with nice-looking clean litter.

But inevitably, what gave it away was this – the sour odour of something bad. And no amount of baking soda or lemon spritz one tried to add on top was going to help. Almost worse was the fact that that odour gradually permeated the entire room, seeping even into my clothing, so that my Mom would comment on the “weird smell” my sweaters had when I went home for the holidays.

And perhaps worst of all was the fact that I often ceased to notice the malodorous buildup – until it became too much – because I’d allowed it to become so much a part of my everyday life.

While praying the other night about my own stinky thoughts and feelings, I had a sudden crystal-clear vision of that little undergraduate room, and dear sweet Anisah – and Anisah’s litterbox in the corner. I remembered how I’d try to get away with doing the minimum amount of work with regard to cleaning the box, and then be compelled to deal with the unpleasant effects of that lack of discipline afterward. The stupid thing was, adding clean litter to the dirty box, and coming up with ways to mask the odour, actually created more work, and was way more troublesome and disagreeable than just giving the box a regular, thorough once-over.

But isn’t that just how some of us are in our thoughts and behaviour sometimes. We lapse so easily into negative thinking and bad, undisciplined behaviour, and then we have to deal with, and cover up the yucky effects. We let ourselves become stinky with fear and worry, unkindness, vindictiveness and unforgiveness, all kinds of ungodly attitudes and behaviour, and then we have to deal with the rank consequences – anxiety, stress, broken relationship; lack of peace; weak, unvictorious lives.

The more we let it go on, the harder it is to eradicate, because we’re just adding layer upon layer of gunk. We become so used to the stink, sometimes we even cease to notice it. We just accept our negative, miserable, unfruitful lives because we’re too undisciplined to do anything about it, until one day it all becomes too much, too unbearable. The bits of poop do add up. We might even wonder why we’re so depressed, anxious, negative about everything and everyone. That’s when – maybe – we cry out for help.

But because we’ve been so lazy and apathetic, and not been in the habit of walking in the Spirit, this is going to take effort! I definitely have to regularly ask God for help with this. Occasionally going to church or saying a prayer in desperation just isn’t enough – we need to be thoroughly renewed and cleaned out. And we have to routinely walk in the Spirit – habitually thinking and doing right.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Like the average litterbox, many of us have nasty bits (chunks? blobs?) hidden under a nice, pleasant exterior. And for so long as we aren’t renewed in the spirit, we’re going to find those nasty bits gradually growing and extending their influence further and further into the rest of our lives.

I've learnt that I shouldn't just occasionally dig around my intolerant, mean, unloving, fearful, negative clumps and then slip back into my old shoddy habits – I shouldn't accept or ignore even the tiny poopy bits or the slight stains - instead I ask God to help me cast it all out, and get spick and span. As the psalmist says, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:7, 10).

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes, “I… appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God's service,

Living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.

Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace.

… let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

… you must no longer live as the heathen do in their perverseness [in the folly, vanity, and emptiness of their souls and the futility] of their minds.

Their moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded. [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature].

In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand].

… Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him],

Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion;

And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude],

And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God's image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.

Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].

…Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God's favour) to those who hear it.

… Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4, italics mine).

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