Vol.XIX No.XI Pg.8
January 1983

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

Years ago, filling my fountain pen from an ink bottle, I saw the need for a small rag with which to clean excess ink from the point before replacing the cap. A small scrap of beige cloth from Vivian's sewing basket was used, and placed in my desk drawer for future use. Obviously the ink left an ugly smear on the cloth, but it was tucked away, out of sight.

A few days later a desk pen was refilled, using brown ink; so now brown and blue stains were on the rag. As the years passed that scrap grew heavier with stains: red, blue, black, brown and green. A dash of India ink marked the time I tried to draw a logo for an Arizona paper; and streaks of white became reminders of special cards we sent out for a baby shower.

The cloth became such a "mess" my friends urged me to get a new one, but by now that multi-hued scrap had a nostalgic significance to me. Its blotches, blobs and blurs began to blend into what a jaundiced eye might call a beautiful pattern — or some impressionist use as an oracle. That rag goes with me now as an honored piece of equipment. It rides in my brief case or occupies a place on my desktop. It is an intriguing conversation piece — "What in the blue-eyed world is that?" — even though my explanation causes some to become wary of me, and back off a bit. We must be philosophical about these things.

For that rotting rag may represent what happens in many lives, with far more serious consequences. We mar our soul with sin — an ugly blot that is so objectionable, even to us; we want to hide it from view. But out of sight it seems not so bad. And soon, with a little more boldness, we add another smear. As the sins multiply they alter our view of such matters. We tend to forget the awfulness of any one of the stains, and soon each loses its identity in a pattern of conduct. We may concede it is a "mess" but still excuse it all by saying, "That's just the way I am."

Finally, conscience seared, we try to make something beautiful of it and boldly display it. What a shame. We must learn that a pattern of sin is made of individual spots, each one in need of cleansing. And each must be washed in the blood of the Lamb.