The sight that met my eyes was, with one exception, the most unpleasant thing that can happen in a washing machine. The one exception is when someone puts bright red underwear in a white wash. But running a close second is the old "leave a tissue in the pocket of your trousers" trick.
Every piece of dark blue clothing was covered with white clumps of sodden and matted paper. Not one item managed to escape, right down to Steve's woollen socks. In fact, they seemed to suffer worst of all, acting almost like a lint magnet to the washtub alien.
Picking through the damp clothing it wasn't long before the culprit was revealed. Although every article in the machine had been assaulted, it didn't take a forensic detective to uncover the trail. In this case the "weapon" wasn't a tissue. It was more like a piece of white cardboard with some sort of printing on it.
"Hmmm," I thought as I started to put two and two together. Taking hold of Steve's black trousers, I checked them over and sure enough, there was a definite intensity in the paper breakdown pattern around the back pocket.
My suspicion was confirmed when I walked back into the house grumbling loudly to everyone within hearing range (which possibly included the neighbours living three doors down the road).
To give him credit, Steve confessed very quickly to the almost capital offence of "failure to remove articles with a high disintegration factor from clothing before putting out to be washed." He'd apparently checked every pocket, except the back one. Or so he said.
A few hours later the clothes drier had done an admirable job of sucking the majority of cardboard fibres from the clothing, which made the task of ironing a little easier. Still, a slight veil persisted over the items that were most effected.
"One little card," I muttered as I steamed and brushed the lint with a vengeance. "Who would think that one little score card could possibly spread this far!"
According to Steve, the game of golf had been such that destroying the evidence in this way was probably merciful. Still, what a lot of damage one little thing can do, when it's put somewhere it doesn't belong.
A golf card is made to record golf scores on. When used in this way, it does exactly what it was designed for - no more, no less.
But when placed in the wrong environment and mixed with water, soap and agitation, the resulting mess is enough to make a grown woman wail. Believe me, I speak from experience!
In the case of a mangled, but squeaky clean, golf card, the results are temporary. Most of the damage was gone by the time the clothes were hung in the wardrobes, and as soon as they go through another wash, there'll be no evidence left at all. Unfortunately, the same can't be said when it comes to people.
Every one of us was originally created to love and serve God, and to live in harmony with one another. This should be a reality when it comes to Christian men and women. But just like that little golf card in the wash, we often end up with our noses in things that don't concern us and end up leaving a trail of mess behind. A bad attitude will almost always contaminate those around us in some way, and the results are rarely temporary.
A little complaint here, a bit of gossip there and a tiny rumor in a receptive ear are all that's needed to start the disintegration. It just takes a bit of "water" to get things nice and juicy, a bit of "soap" to bring out the "dirt" and a lot of agitation to stir things up. Then before we know it our attitude and sin has spread out and besmirched everyone who gave ear to our complaints.
This behaviour is nothing new. Right at the very start of the Christian Church, Paul felt it was necessary to warn Timothy of the danger posed by those who indulge in it:
Even if we are connected in some way with the situation and the grievance has some truth, we really should resist the temptation of passing our personal biases, bitterness and anger onto others. The fruit of this kind of "godless chatter" are such things as disunity, division, dissension and dysfunction. Most important of all, it will not only block our relationship with God and start us walking down a road of unrighteousness, it will also poison the relationship that our listeners have with God and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
We need to deal with our attitudes, problems, concerns and grievances before they reach a point that leads to disintegration and contamination. Before we let the agitation bring out our worst, let's allow the soothing oil of the Holy Spirit to bring out our best.
First of all, we need to see whether the issue is anything to do with us at all. If it isn't, then we need to stay out of the wash!
If we are involved in some way, then we need to make sure that we deal with it fast. Be honest and forthright with your opinions when there's a suitable forum for discussion. If you hold back when discussion is being held about something for which you have strong feelings, then you have no one to blame for the final decision but yourself.
If someone has said or done something that's left you wounded, then let them know. This is, perhaps, the hardest thing of all to do. Most of us are just not comfortable with confrontation, but it doesn't need to be harsh or cruel. Often it's simply a matter of asking the person what they meant by their words or actions. We might be surprised to find out how often these things turn out to be just a misunderstanding.
However, if after discussion resolution doesn't seem possible, the only action left for us is to agree to disagree and move on, with no animosity. If we get this far and then turn to anger, bitterness and slander, then we're no better off than we were at the start.
It doesn't take much to make a real mess of things and just as the evidence of that one little piece of cardboard in the washing machine was very obvious, so too will be the evidence of any gossip or slander within the life of a congregation.  Not only that, just as it was easy to track down the washday culprit by looking at the clues, the same will be true about the one who starts dissension.
You know, It's actually quite amazing, but everything really does eventually come out in the wash!
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