Lessons from Grout: How we Cover Up and Avoid What Needs Cleaning

Lessons from Grout: How we Cover Up and Avoid What Needs Cleaning

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Mediterranean terracotta tiles cover most of the first floor of my home. I’ve noticed for a few years now how dirty the grout around those tiles has become. Hiring someone to come in with a big steam cleaner felt like a loud and messy solution to improving the look of the floor. A friend had a steam cleaner. I just never got around to asking for it.

So I bought an indoorterracotta tile floor with dirty grout/outdoor rug and covered up most of the kitchen area that had the grimiest grout. That lasted a year until my husband and I got tired of tripping over the edges of the rug.

I took a stab at brushing it with a toothbrush and some cleanser once. My back ached afterwards but the grout didn’t look much improved. So we’ve just lived with it.

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I bit down hard on anger once, tenacious hard, like a pit bull. The anger was justified. I’d been wronged. I gripped it with clenched teeth and shook it back and forth for all to see. It felt good to be so justified in my anger. Perhaps you know the feeling?

I walked around with that anger forever. Oh, someone had made me so mad! I told the story over and over again. I wrote it down in my journal, on scraps of paper. It was all I thought about. All I talked about when anyone asked.

Like eating bad food, I learned how ill anger can make you when you bite into it. The people closest to you get real tired of hearing about it as the months go by. I carried that ragged anger around, clenched in the teeth of my heart until my jaw ached from the effort. My stomach tied itself in all sorts of knots. I was not fun to be around, even to myself.

My son’s golden retriever, Buoy, loves to chase balls. He catches them in his mouth, covers them with his slobber, and refuses to release them when I command him to “Drop it!” I acted like Buoy with my anger. When I finally got tired of carrying it around, I found I had a problem. Like Buoy, I couldn’t seem to drop it.

“Anger is the single biggest detriment to the spiritual life.”

St. Basil

 

I’d pray and ask God to help me let it go. I’d wake up and it was still there.

Opening my Concordance Bible, I began to look up each reference to anger and wrote it down in a notebook. Surely the Bible would help me.

Each morning, I became more and more discouraged when the anger clung to my heart in the early dawn hours upon waking. I just couldn’t seem to shake it loose.

 

I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen.

I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You.

Psalm 73:21, 22

 

When I finally realized I couldn’t do it on my own, I went to Confession. The priest absolved my sin of anger and then startled me with some advice. “When this comes up again, remind yourself you’ve forgiven him.”

What? What do you mean “When it comes up again?” I thought my sin was washed away, that I was done with it? I almost screamed internally.

He was right, of course. Anger that we allow into our heart takes a while to remove. It’s a process that requires patience and time.

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Somewhere recently, I read a tip about Clorox Bleach gel that works magic on cleaning grout. I ordered some from Amazon after searching several local stores for it and coming up empty. Maybe it’s spring fever. Maybe I’m just tired of looking at dirty grout. Who knows what got into me, but the day after it arrived, I squirted some on the grout around eight squares of tile. I let it sit there for a while.

After an hour or so, never one to be eager about cleaning, I filled a bowl with water and bent down with my grout cleaning brush and started scrubbing. The result was kind of magical. White grout appeared quickly where dirty gray once groveled. How pleasant it was to brush a little and see dirt scurry away. I stood up to admire the difference and put away the gel for another day.

The plan was to do a little at a time.

It looked pretty awesome. I took the gel back out and squirted another eight tiles’ worth with the bleach. Now a good portion of my kitchen floor looked amazing and almost new. My husband raised his eyebrows when he stepped in to look at my work. A clear line of white-bordered tiles lined up like soldiers in their dress whites.

“Pretty cool, huh? Doesn’t that look incredible?” I asked. He nodded with a smile and complimented me on finding a solution to the dirty-looking floor.

I was eager to finish the work, but it would have to wait for another day. My back could only take so much bending over. The contrast between the newly cleaned grout and the rest of the floor was vivid and strong. It motivated me to finish the rest of the floor over the next few days. Once the eye can see how fresh and clean everything looks compared to what once was, it has little tolerance for the dark presence of dirt.

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…

Joel 2:12

So it is with the effort of forgiving. Many of us live for long periods of time with dark anger in our hearts. We feel little desire to do the work of getting rid of it. Grace is like Clorox Bleach gel. Once it soaks the sin in our hearts, the anger lifts with just a little scrubbing. The relief and freshness in our soul will feel like the warm breezes of spring that brush tiny white and purple crocuses and coax pink azaleas into bloom.

Whatever sin is darkening your soul, whatever you’ve been ignoring for a while now that interferes with your relationship with God, will break free with a good squirt of grace. Let your dark spots soak in God’s presence by sitting in prayer and giving Him your heart. You’ve lived with it [name the darkness you carry if not lack of forgiveness] long enough.  It’s time for a fresh start. It’s time to clean your grout.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

About Chris Manion

The parable of the talents drives Chris Manion to keep sharing what God offers her. God’s joy and compassion shows in her award-winning memoir, God’s Patient Pursuit of My Soul which she wrote while rearing two children and running a home-based multi-million dollar business. She speaks about trusting God and how to hear His voice. She's a musician, loves to laugh and eat M&Ms, and teaches children of all ages. Visit her website for more info.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed your post and the analogy. I also chuckled because I have been looking at the grout in my kitchen tiled floor and seeing its need of cleaning. When I look at grout now, I don’t think I will ever forget the need to ‘clean my grout’ as you’ve well defined. Thank you.

    • So many everyday moments like this one remind us of God’s desire to fill our hearts and shine forth His love to others, don’t they? We just have to focus on Him or clean up what’s preventing His light from shining within us. Thank you for your kind words, Jude.

    • Here’s to cleaner grout in your kitchen, Jude, and clean hearts, too. Psalm 51:10. My apologies for the delayed reply, but God will probably use this timing perfectly, as He does all things. Thanks for taking the time to read my work and respond. I appreciate it.

  2. What a great analogy! Yes, letting God’s grace soak into you helps lift the sin away. And thank you for the great housecleaning tip! I’m going to try it.

    • You’re very welcome, Linda. Why I am so stubborn about trying to do everything myself, (thank you very much, I’m quite capable) and why I wait so long to lean into God’s grace is beyond me. I’m sure the devil’s minions are up to their old tricks of distraction and egging me to hold onto my pride in order to keep me from seeking God’s grace in all things. God always wins, though. He is the source of eternal hope.

      Enjoy the wonders of grace and Clorox Bleach gel!

      Chris

    • You’re welcome, Linda.

  3. Love your “Grace is like Clorox bleach gel” line, Chris! Great picture.

    • Thanks, Becky. I’m beginning to think this is my new focus these days: finding how many everyday objects have a secondary purpose of reminding us of one of God’s truths, or characteristics, or ways of drawing us closer to Him. His glory aches to shine out from each one of us for the good of us all.

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