Stain remover (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of

I am standing in aisle eleven at Wal-Mart. Beside me is a fortyish woman, smartly dressed yet still a bit haggard. Both of us are contemplating the correct choice among the dizzying array of what may well be the most important technological advancement for anyone trying to protect an innocent home from the ravages of children: stain remover.

I woke up this morning to find a blotch of spaghetti sauce on the couch. How’d it get there? No idea. But as the blotch was in the shape of a small handprint, I have suspects.

Such events are common in the lives of parents. There are messes and spills and catastrophes large and small to endure. And there are stains. Many, many stains. So many, in fact, that I can’t seem to walk through the house anymore without glancing behind me to dwell on them all.

So. A trip to Wal-Mart.

I don’t know this lady beside me. I don’t know if her issue is child-related or not. We piddle through the bottles and packages and cans of cleaner, pondering to ourselves.

Stain fighting has come a long way. Whereas past generations had to make due with soap and spit and elbow grease, we are fortunate enough to possess the fruits of science. As I scan the shelves, I see products that promise to eliminate stain completely, to restore damaged goods to immaculate condition, and to do it all with a minimum amount of effort. After careful thought, I choose the bottle that promises to clean even deeper than its competitors and disinfect while doing so. Excellent.

The lady beside me makes her choice as well, opting for the industrial strength cleaner that promises to get rid of not only stains, but staph, strep, and E. coli as well. She must have a bigger family.

She turns to leave and chuckles, partly to herself and partly to me. “Wish they could make a stain remover for your life,” she says.

What a wonderful idea, I think to myself. After all, there is even more to clean up in a life than in a house, children or not. There are plenty of messes and spills, not to mention all those catastrophes of varying degree. There are surely more stains. In my own case, a lot more. And like my own house, I can’t seem to walk through my life without glancing back to dwell on them all.

I’m sure I’m not alone here.

It would be nice if we could all just stroll over to aisle eleven at the Wal-Mart and grab of bottle of miracle something that could get rid of all our stains and restore us to perfect condition with one quick spritz and wipe.

But we can’t.

Cleaning up failures and regrets is a lot harder than cleaning up spaghetti sauce. Those stains are deeper and more permanent. That’s okay, though. It really is. Those stains remind us of what happens when we try to go it alone, when we think we can do things our own way, in our own time, and with only our own interests at heart.

Walking through this life is more like walking through the woods than a house. It’s tough and hard and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention. And no matter how carefully we step or how experienced we believe ourselves to be, we all get a little filthy in the process. But there is a secret to getting through life and the woods and safely back home. It isn’t to look down in shame at the stains we’ve managed to get on ourselves, it’s to look up to the God who can take those stains away. The God who put our eyes in front of us so we can see where we’re going and not where we’ve been.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

« « Previous Post: #Echo10: Day Two | Next Post: Shadows of the Night » »

21 Responses to “Stain remover (by Billy Coffey)”