About a month ago we paid off one of our cars. This tends to take us a while to do, so we were excited to finally own this car outright. No more monthly payments, a little bit of breathing room. Chris and I both breathed sighs of relief at God’s provision of a bit of extra money to spend in other places.
We were all smiles about it until the day I bought the watermelon. Well, actually, we were still smiling until 2 days after the purchase. That’s when we noticed the stench. In the car. The one we’d just received the title for in the mail.
My daughter and I headed out to the driveway prepared to pick up the friends in our morning carpool to school. Everything about this Wednesday morning was clipping along fine, until Sarah Kate opened the car door. Out came the worst smell I think I’ve ever smelled. No other odor compares … it was just suffocating.
Suddenly, I remembered the melon that I’d bought as a sweet treat for my family. I remembered noticing it in the back seat floorboard on Monday (in case you didn’t notice, this was Wednesday morning). I hadn’t placed the watermelon in the floorboard. I’d placed it in the cargo area that I had enlarged by folding down the back row of seats. Apparently, on the drive from Sam’s to our house, it had fallen.. While unloading the other groceries, I remember making a mental note to come back and get it. Needless to say, I quickly forgot and there it still sat.
What I hadn’t realized was that it had busted open when it fell. Thus the smell: rotting watermelon with a day and a half of summer heat added in.
We rolled down all the windows and turned the AC on full blast in an attempt to clear the air before we got to the Moore’s house. I apologized to the girls we were picking up for this less-than-welcoming scent, and they gagged as they entered. All four of them. It was a lot of gagging.
One of the girls offered her family’s trash can for disposal of the rotten fruit. I took her up on it, but was disappointed when I returned to the car and found its fragrance still lingering. The car really smelled just as bad as it had before I hauled away the watermelon.
It was so bad, in fact, that our children began to refuse to ride in it. Ella, our 10 year old, starting having gagging reactions when she would begin to get close to the car. The girls I drove to school requested air fresheners. I think they probably held their breath.
I began to gag when I remembered that we now owned this car, this very stinky car. This car that no one in the family wanted to come near anymore.
Something had to be done. Although we were ready to kiss it and its awful odor good-bye, I couldn’t envision trying to sell this smelly vehicle. Who else would want to drive a compost bin on wheels? We were clearly stuck with this car.
So I have spent the last week – yes, 7 days – trying to rid our car of this smell. I have used cleaning wipes, extra strength carpet odor eliminator powder, an over-priced spray for “tough odors,” another carpet deodorizing powder that touted a delightful floral scent (then it smelled like rotten watermelon in a garden). I’ve sprayed lots of Febreze … the one that purports to eliminate even the most stubborn smells. I’ve kept the windows down to let fresh air in and the bad smell out every chance I’ve had. I even went to AutoBell and paid them $54 to shampoo the carpets. My passengers still complained. I finally resorted to stuffing Hawaiian breeze air fresheners under the seats.
A few days into this situation, I had an epiphany of sorts – I am like this watermelon. There are times when others experience my words and my presence as a fragrant offering. These are the times that my words bring blessings and my presence offers comfort. The times when the fruit of my lips is tasty and sweet.
Then there are the days that I am a rotten melon. The days that unkind words, (the Bible calls them curses), flow readily from my lips. The moments when my temper is short, and my determination to have my own way long-lasting. The times when the overflow of my heart is toxic to those around me. Maybe even to the point that they want to gag when they see me next.
The freshness or the foulness of my fruit is determined by the spirit I’m listening to in the moment. It is indication of whether I’m living according to my sinful and self-centered flesh or to the Holy Spirit’s call to receive grace and extend love.
My allegiance can change on a dime. One minute I may be looking out for the needs of others and the next I am out to make myself happy. One moment you may find me believing God’s trustworthy words about my value and the next you may find me fretting over my reflection in the mirror. On some occasions, I am quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness and on many others I am judgmental and dug in.
Another similarity is the length of time the smell lingers … whether it is the aroma of Christ or the spirit of death. Just like my family experienced in the Osborn Watermelon Fiasco, the stench of my poisonous words doesn’t easily fade. Neither does the bitter taste of my pride. Nor the divisive power of my unforgiveness. Not even the bruises on my soul from falling down in worship to one of my idols … again.
No, the harm I do to others when I live as if I’m the king of my kingdom stays in the air a good long while. The sting of my words, the cutting of my tone, the burns inflicted by my icy withdrawal when I’m hurt … these are all aromas of death and when I default to them you could say that I stink at loving well. Instead of offering life to those God gave me to care for, I’m wounding the spirit of my loved ones each time I make the decision to live according to my sinful nature.
But I wasn’t meant to live this way. I was created in God’s image and am designed to bring LIFE to those around me. I am called to resist evil (not participate with it) and to do good (not harm). I am intended to be a human communicator of God’s love to people.
This requires that I live thoughtfully and deliberately, avoiding impulsive reactions whenever I possibly can. It means that I must spend more time on my knees (begging for humility and mercy) than with my feet stuck in the muck and the mire of my own agenda.
It means that I need prayers. My prayers for myself and your prayers on my behalf. It means that I need Jesus to call His Holy Spirit to bring me direction and conviction. It means that I must follow His lead if I am to be transformed into His likeness the way I say I want to be.
It means that I must remember daily the moral of this story. People, like watermelons, create smelly situations when they fall. And both require something bigger than themselves to do the clean-up.
Wendy Osborn is married to Chris, and their 3 daughters are her favorite girls in the world. She is in the process of launching a non-profit ministry called Fixing Our Eyes, dedicated to nurturing the souls of women with the love of Jesus as they walk through painful life circumstances. All services are offered free of charge.