Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gunked Up Stoves and Hearts

stove top and cleaning toolsDoes God use the ordinary and mundane things of life to speak to you about deep, spiritual matters? What spiritual lesson could one possibly learn while cleaning a stove anyway? What started out to be a post centered on cleaning, procrastination and elbow grease has turned out to be something much more profound.

When we moved into the house we live in now, the stove in the kitchen had a lot of gunk burnt on around the burners. Like carbonized…nothing I tried would get it to come off. I thought about using a knife or something to chisel it off, but I was afraid that I’d ruin the surface of the stove, so I left it alone. After a while, I got used to the way it looked and even though I hated it because it looked like I never cleaned the stove, it eventually bothered me less and less. There was nothing I could do about it, I thought, so why bother.

Periodically, I’d get an urge to try again to get that gunk off the stove. I’d try some new cleaner or cleaning tool. I’d have minimal success. I’d give up and once again go back to not noticing the burned on, carbonized, black nasty gunk on the pretty white stove top.

Yesterday, I tried again. I got out a can of scouring powder and a scrubby pad. It seemed to be working, then I thought “Well, that’s probably just new stuff…it’s probably not working on the old gunk.” I wanted to give up…it’s been 90+ degrees and humid like a rainforest here for what seems like years this summer. I don’t really want to be scrubbing my stove, to be honest. Then, I considered using a knife again.

What did I have to lose? It couldn’t possibly look worse than it did right then…right?

gunky burner
This burner is only half as bad as the main burner I cook with.
 I forgot to take a picture of that one!

I grabbed an old steak knife that would barely cut butter and went at it. I was surprised, and pleased, to see that it was chipping off easier than the one time before that I tried this technique (and discovered it left little marks behind). Perhaps the scouring powder had loosened things up this time. I carefully hacked away at the burnt on, carbonized, black nasty gunk on the nice, white stove top.

As I was working on this, it occurred to me that this gunked-up stove top was a perfect analogy for a deep, spiritual principle. Leave it to a blogger, huh?  I thought about how we’d lived in this house for nearly four years…how many meals I’d cooked on that stove…how many times I’d cleaned it, but only the surface…not the deep down, stuck on, burnt on nasty stuff. I’d hated the way it looked that and yet was able to ignore it for the majority of that time. And was able to justify not doing anything about it because I was afraid of ruining it and upsetting the landlord.

Then, I thought about things in my own heart…which I want to be nice and clean, pretty and white as snow. There’s things that dirty up the surface and are easily wiped away…and then there are the things that are black and stuck and won’t come off without a fight. Things that have been there for years and years. Things that I hate, and yet can overlook because after a while, you just get used to it being a part of you.  Cleaners don’t work. Scrubby pads don’t work. It takes a knife to remove those old, nasty black spots on my heart.

But, I’m afraid.

Afraid of the work involved. Afraid of the pain. Afraid it might change me too much. Afraid of what others would think, even. But shouldn’t I be most afraid of upsetting the Lord of my heart by not tending to those things? God is good. God is for me, not against me. Pain is not always bad, if it brings life and beauty in the end. And He promised never to leave me or forsake me, so why should I be afraid?

I finally got the stove top clean. There was only one burner area that showed any kind of evidence of being hacked at by a dull steak knife. Minimal scarring, really. Did it detract from the beauty of the stove top as a whole? Maybe, if you focused on that. But just taking a look at the clean stove top, it looked new. And I finally loved my stove, which has served me well for years and helped me to prepare nourishing meals for my family. I no longer felt ashamed for anyone to see it, either. It was a nice feeling.

This morning, I cooked on my lovely “new” stove. I made a pot of oatmeal for breakfast. I wasn’t paying attention and it began to boil over…leaving a nice gloppy mess on my clean, white stove. The analogy continues…if we don’t pay close attention to what is in our hearts and minds, they are easily soiled again.

gloppy oatmeal
Watched pots never boil...but unattended pots boil over

I cleaned it up right away. I didn’t let it sit there. I didn’t ignore it so it would become a black nasty spot that would be difficult and painful to remove. The stove is once again nice and clean…

all clean
Almost looks like a brand new stove again!

…well, except for the back part, which apparently had the paint scrubbed off at some point. I think I can get some appliance paint maybe and fix that. But at least the area where I prepare food daily doesn’t look dirty and nasty anymore. Thanks, God…You have such a way of using the ordinary to speak to me about things that are extraordinary, like your love, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy and grace. I love You!


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