Nail Polish, Carpet, and Coming Clean: A Lent Reflection


Right in the middle of the threshold to the master bathroom on the blue carpet was a handprint put there by my third child. If he put there on purpose, I could not know. If it was an accident, it was of the serendipitous kind for it was perfect. There were no other spots around it just the impression of a palm and five fingers. It was the color of fresh blood but it wasn’t blood. It was nail polish which is weird because I haven’t been much into polishing nails unless someone else does it for me. I can’t imagine I left the Sinful Color out to tempt my little ball of energy, but I guess I did. He must have had quite a bit of alone time to paint a whole hand with that tiny brush. 

I didn’t dare touch the handprint on the carpet thinking trying to remove the stain would only make it worse. The thinking was faulty, of course, because it would have most likely made it a smear had I messed with it; it would have changed from the perfect little print of a five-year-old's hand to something altogether different. Most people would say a handprint or smudge of nail polish is enough reason to re-carpet a whole room. So yes, I concede that my thinking was correct after all since a smear would have been something I couldn’t live with. A handprint was another thing. So I left it and ran the vacuum cleaner over it year after year. Every morning I stepped on that small handprint as I began my day and again in the evenings as I made my way to bed after brushing my teeth. That little wave of the hand on the carpet became so familiar to me that I started to like it. It seemed to have always been there. It had grown on me.

Then one day, we had the carpet cleaned which is an oxymoron because carpet never comes clean. They just seem clean for a day or two before the soap left behind starts grabbing every bit of dirt they possibly can even the dust motes flying in the afternoon sunlight. I told the cleaner man not to worry over the handprint over by the door to the master bath, that it was nail polish and I had resigned to its presence. He looked at it lying there in the slanting light of the morning sun filtering through the big window over the whirlpool tub. He studied it while rubbing his chin and nodding. He spoke no words to give me any indication about the hand and its fate. He headed out to the van so he could bring the long snake-y tube into the house to strip the floors of their dirt and their stain guard.

I’ve learned the carpets should be cleaned on a Thursday or Friday so the dwellers of the house can leave for a long weekend while the carpets still smell like citrus and wet dog hair. It’s best that they have a few days to pretend. It will buy you time so you don’t have to face the inevitable. We only left for a while, spending the afternoon at Yancey Park, sucking on slushes from Sonic and getting our feet dirty before coming home to carpet we had paid to be clean for four hours. Every one of the beds sat on carpeting so there was no choice but to begin the process of reclaiming our stake of ground. I went to the master bedroom to stake my claim and noticed the carpet by the master bath. The hand was gone, removed by the sucking snake I supposed, or magic, I couldn’t be sure.

I felt sadness and regret which shouldn’t be the case when wrong things are made right. That seems out of sorts for with the way things ought to be, but it was true. I had started to love the stain on the carpet.

Today, on the first day of Lent, I am wondering what I have in my life that has become part of me that I see every day but really is a blemish on the landscape of my life? What kind of handprint is on me that isn’t supposed to be there but I’ve grown comfortable with or maybe even love? Am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to examine me? Will I look for the evidence of sin in my life that I’ve stepped over day after day?

Confession of sin is never fun. Ridding ourselves of those things that are not pleasing to God is the path to freedom, but it isn’t without pain. Often, the God who loves us wounds us in order to heal us, or at the least, He presses in so He can stop our bleeding, that which is robbing us of life and energy to live in the Kingdom of God. That’s why today, many people will give up chocolate or caffeine as a way of suffering with Christ. They will decide for themselves without letting the Holy Spirit examine them. They won’t ask Jesus to set them back on the path of life— a life with eyes wide open, aware and hungry for the life of holiness that comes from living in the Presence of Jesus. Most of us don’t want our eyes opened to where we need to change. We like being blind to the realities of our sin. We are gifted at pointing out the imperfections in others, but we vacuum over our own without a thought of living a different story, a clean and holy one.

As I think back on that handprint on the carpet, even though I was sad at the moment that it was gone, I realized the cleaner man had done his job. He did it well. He made things right. I let him in the door and asked him to do it and that’s what He did. 

Jesus isn’t pushy. He doesn’t force himself on us. He’s not that kind of Friend. But He will get to work and do what only He can do---if we will let him. It is a process that we need to enter into often. The days of Lent are a time we can do that in community as a people of faith. We need to be practiced in the discipline of confession as we live in this sin-cursed world. What a beautiful opportunity we have to live in the fullness of life! God wants to give us more than we want for ourselves. That is something to think about because it's true. He is faithful to cleanse us and to give us right spirit within if we’ll open the door and let Him in.

My heart today is do just that---to let Him in for a spring clean. How about you?

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