Having a house with three dogs and a big backyard, the “waste” can build up pretty quickly if not attended to. So, someone in our household is always picking up after them, attempting to keep our yard free and clear. Yet, no matter how hard I try, for some reason, I have always managed to step directly into a pile of it. It’s actually a running joke in our house, as no one else seems to have this problem. Despite trying to keep a look out, I usually end up with it on the soles of my shoes. The worst part is the discovery, as I don’t usually find out that I’ve stepped in something right away.
Sometimes, I manage to track it in the house, and am horrified to find it trailed behind me. Sometimes it’s when I enter an enclosed space, and either myself or the people around me sense the odor. And when I am alerted by others, the overall sensation (both mine and theirs) is disgust and revulsion. The overwhelming smell is so strong, that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what level of fame or power you have in life: there’s nothing like a little poop on your shoes to bring you down several notches.
As Christians, our living example to others is one of our strongest tools in showing the world Christ. Yet we have a tendency to “step in it” in life, thus destroying any ministry or power our example might have. When we become involved with events or activities that clearly are not Godly, we have “stepped in it” and that act permeates any other good that we are trying to accomplish. Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, suggested that “we put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6.3). He knew that one small stench can destroy an entire lifetime’s worth of work, so he warned us to watch our step.
So how are we “stepping in it,” exactly? When I literally step in it, it’s usually because I am paying attention to the wrong things in life and not what is on the ground in front of me. Thus, we “step in it” by having the wrong focus, drawing attention to ourselves through the wrong means. Vala Afshar, a writer for The Huffington Post, recently tweeted that we should not be impressed by “money, power, looks, title, or network.” When we focus on improving these very human areas in our own life, and often times blindly so, we tend to bring attention to our own person and what we have accomplished as individuals. We have stepped into areas that take the focus off Christ and put it on ourselves and our achievements, establishing a stench of personal triumph. Gandhi is often cited with the idea that he liked Christ but did not like Christians, and most likely because Christians step in it frequently, making our examples very un-Christ-like. When we focus on bettering ourselves, the stench is staggering enough to illicit revulsion and rejection, no matter how great our words and examples are.
Then, Afshar tweeted that we should be impressed by “character, kindness, generosity, humility, and passion,” areas that take the spotlight off ourselves and place it on Christ’s example and teachings. By building up these areas in our life, the stink is eliminated and our ministry of Christ’s love through us is manifested. We no longer celebrate our personal success but instead rejoice in His love for us, and the smell of His embrace is much more attractive than what we may be tracking in on our shoes.
If our priorities and goals are misaligned, and we seek this first list of qualities, the overwhelming foulness permeates any other admirable goals we may be trying to attain, and people will be driven off. Yet, if we center ourselves daily on Him through prayer and meditation, realigning our efforts on these Christ-like qualities, people will be drawn to Him through us, and will experience the much more inviting sweet scent of His love for the world and all its people. Amen.