Stronger Stuff

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My dad has always been a tinkerer. He’s always liked being able to solve problems and repair things. Growing up, I don’t remember my dad ever taking our car to get an oil change. That was just one of those things he did himself.

Over the course of a a few oil changes he’d slowly fill up this metal container with the used oil, and that stuff was filthy, basically sludge. Once the container was full he’d take the used oil to get recycled, but in the meantime it sat alongside the wall under the eave outside our garage. My brother and I would pass it several times a day, and we’d been told expressly and repeatedly to stay away, to keep our distance.

One lazy summer afternoon when I was seven or eight I was shooed outside the house because “A beautiful day like this shouldn’t be wasted.” I was wandering around, hot and bored, when I happened to stroll slowly past the oil pan by the garage.

I stopped and backpedaled a few steps. I looked around. No one was in sight.

I could hear my heart beating as I got up close enough that my toes were touching the edge of the container, and I could see myself reflected in its inky surface. I knew what I shouldn’t do.

And I did it anyway.

I plunged both hands in until I was up to my elbows.

And it felt good. It was the stuff of kids’ dreams. Thick. Slimy. Dirty.

Not until I pulled my hands out did I realize the depths of the trouble I was in.

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The dark muck clung to me even as it dripped from my fingertips. I shook my hands and managed to splatter it all over my legs and shorts. I tried to skim it off my forearms to no avail. I wiped my hands on the t-shirt I wore, but I couldn’t sop up enough of it.

I started to panic.

I snuck inside to the bathroom. I ran the water in the sink and scrubbed and scrubbed with the hand soap, but only managed to smear the oil all over myself, the white porcelain sink, and the tile of the bathroom floor.

I turned off the water, and stood there for a few moments.

And finally, I called for help. I took a deep breath and shouted, “Dad!” The sound of it reverberated off the tiles. Then I heard his footsteps from the other room, then in the hall, and as he opened the door I burst into tears.

I squeezed my eyes shut and lifted my hands to show him. I was covered, head to toe. I’d tried to clean up my mess, and I’d only made it worse.

Without a word he took one of my hands and led me to the kitchen. From under the sink he pulled out a bottle, and from it he squeezed an orange-scented, sandy kind of soap into my hands. Then he stood there and helped me wash away all the mess I’d made. I watched as it disappeared down the drain.

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Sin makes an ungodly mess. It makes a mess of us. It makes a mess of the things and the people we use to try and clean it up and cover it up. And it simply cannot be gotten rid of.

Unless… unless you’re given stronger stuff.

The good news is, if we call on him for help, Jesus has… stronger… stuff.

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

The live performance of this story is available at willowcreek.tv