A Little Less Vinegar, Please

My dad knew that something was wrong when he arrived home from work to find all of our furniture in the yard. All of our clothes were out there, as well. I guess the couch, love-seat, recliner, and all of our mattresses kept him from noticing much else.  This happened well before cell phones and my dad couldn’t receive phone calls while on the job. Coming home from work every day was kind of lake having a surprise party especially for him. Not all surprises are good surprises.

It was sort of amazing, really.  My mom had accomplished this feat by herself and we lived in a two-story, split-foyer house. No, she’s not a bodybuilder or a superhero; she has never turned green or owned an invisible jet. She was just mad.  Finding out that her kids have lice can apparently inject a woman with super-strength along with a helping of insanity.

Yes, my brother and I had lice. No, we weren’t street urchins who went out everyday picking pockets and climbing through the sewer system. I’m guessing that’s what my mom was afraid people would think. She was filled with indignation and determination. The lice had to be eradicated and she couldn’t wait for anyone’s help to begin the process. So she grabbed up our furniture like a fistful of legos and carried it all outside to be sprayed and aired out. But that wasn’t all.

She began calling people on the phone to find out how to treat our hair; this is what people did before they could look everything up on the internets. And for things of this nature, you would call the oldest person that you know. Old people and home remedies go together like honey mustard and broccoli. Honey mustard and broccoli don’t go together?!?! You must be one of those weird people who actually like broccoli, or you don’t have a wife that makes you eat it. Trust me–it’s good. Not really, but it does lubricate the broccoli with enough taste to allow passage down my throat.

The old person told her that washing our hair in vinegar would kill the existing lice and prevent any more of them from wanting to take up residence on our scalp.  Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Here is what’s worse: my mom never does anything half-way. Nosiree. This is why my ugly brother and I took a bath in vinegar.

That’s right, a full-body vinegar bath. My mom filled the tub up with the vile liquid and told us to strip down and sit in it. We were compliant children who generally did everything asked of us, most of the time without complaint. This wasn’t one of those times. We whined, complained, and begged; it did no good. Vinegar had worked for mom’s elderly advisor so it would work for us. And she didn’t want to take any chances. If washing our hair in vinegar was good, making us bathe in it was better.

As a result, the lice left and never came back. And I hate the smell of vinegar. A little bit would not have turned me against it altogether, but a lot caused me to despise everything about it from that moment on. I’m afraid my mom isn’t the only one who has used too much vinegar. I’m afraid that the Church has done the same thing. Not with real vinegar, but with words that taste like vinegar to the soul.

We have done a good job of telling the world what we are against, but sometimes doing a good job at something is a bad thing. Instead of proclaiming the graceful truth about Jesus, we have fallen into the seductive trap of declaring what is wrong with the world and everyone in it.  We have become efficient at enumerating the sins, calling them out by name. We aren’t so good at showing the Savior’s love through word and deed.

All of this vinegar has caused us to stink. All of this vitriol has caused many to flee.

Sin still needs to be called out, but the vinegar must be mixed with love and grace. It is the sweet savor of Christ that should be most prominent, even if that is not the way the older folks used to do it.

(Have you been exposed to too much vinegar lately? Have you taken steps to counteract it? Share away!)

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8 thoughts on “A Little Less Vinegar, Please

  1. When Christians are talked about on TV, the world sees the vinegar. When Christians are written about in articles, the world hears the vinegar. Why won’t we try to reverse the image? You’ve touched on something that has really bothered me lately. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. There are so many layers to this – I feel like, as a more liberal Christian in a conservative Christian town and for a loooooong time in a staunch fundamentalist church, I only got vinegar. I dont want to give that vinegar right back, but I do want other Christians like me and those who don’t believe to know that grace is real, and you don’t have to fit a mold to love Jesus.

    I don’t want to give a sour impression, but I do hope to carve out a little correction in the world’s perception and now I’ll stop rhyming, I mean it.

    Does anybody want a peanut?

    • Impressive use of rhyming words. And I love peanuts, especially the honey roasted variety. The negative perception of the Church that many have will not be completely corrected, but we can change the perceptions of some. It just takes time, tenacity, and prayer.

  3. Saw you over on Michael’s blog. Read this and one thought came to my mind…okay two. NEVER again mom will you ever do that to me. NEVER! I wouldn’t care if I had to get a whooping.I hate the smell of vinegar as it is. Second, I think you have hit on something the church really needs to think seriously about. We have become more well known for what we are against than what we are for.

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