Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spiritual toilet paper

The shelf was full of hygiene products. Body wash, tooth brushes, lotions, shampoos, razors, shaving gel and the most basic of hygiene necessitates, toilet paper. It was my first day at the City Mission Food Pantry and the volunteer coordinator instructed me to hand out particular quantities of each food item, fruit and vegetable. "Then they can pick out just one hygiene product off of this display" he told me, pointing to the rack full of miscellaneous products with a bottom row stacked with generic, scratchy toilet paper.
The time came for me to assist my first individual through the line. He took every food item I offered, even the jar of pickled pigs feet. Then we arrived at the hygiene products. "You can pick any one item off of this shelf," I told him. He didn't even need to survey his options, he immediately reached down and grabbed the toilet paper. Then he thanked me and left.
The next three individuals followed suit, taking home an array of food times, including a jar of pigs feet and a roll of the cheapest toilet paper known to man. Over a few days of assisting individuals at the food pantry the trend continued. Very few people reached for the Aveeno Moisturizing lotion, Suave Body Wash and not one single man grabbed a can of shaving cream. Almost every single person through the line reached quickly and without hesitation for the toilet paper. Some even asked, with a wink and a nod, if they could sneak out an extra roll.
How could it be that in this land of abundance, where six year olds have cell phones and  coffee shops and drug stores are on every corner, that there are so many among us who are in such desperate need for the most basic of necessities? We are overwhelmed with a bounty of excess stuff everywhere we look and yet there are individuals who are still needy for the utter basics, the things that I can't ever imagine waking up without, things like toilet paper.
The saddest fact of the plight of the needy is that, for many, they will remain in their destitution for the entirety of their lives. Each week they will continue to stand in line for their turn through the food pantry and each day they will go back to the soup kitchen, grab a tray and get their fill of whatever is being offered. Few will break out of this life and overcome the depths of poverty they have come to know as their normal.

It is so easy to see the destitution in these individuals at the food pantry. They are so impoverished and needy that they don't even contemplate taking home an indulgence such as a body lotion or shaving gel. They are still desperate for the necessities - for the toilet paper.
You and I may be well stocked with soft toilet paper and more body lotions than our skin could ever absorb but many of us are still impoverished, needy and destitute when it comes to our spirit. We reach for spiritual toilet paper. We clean ourselves up but never experience the healing, cleansing and rejuvenating that God offers. We are stuck in a never-ending cycle of just cleaning up our messes, dealing with our sin and never experiencing the freedom and power found in Christ.
Just like the individuals at the food pantry, none of us will ever break out of our spiritual poverty until we are reborn. We cannot continue in our old ways and expect to see a new life. We have to put to death our old self and the sin that entangles. The dear souls at the City Mission Food Pantry won't ever be able to afford their own toilet paper and overcome their need for basic necessities until they change their way of living. That might mean breaking free of an addiction that sucks up all of their money or finding a job after years of unemployment. Whatever their circumstance may be it must change for their neediness to be relieved.
There are ways out of financial and physical poverty and thankfully, there are people willing to aid and assist those in that destitution break free from that life. There is also a way out of spiritual poverty and it is found in Jesus Christ. The ticket out is free and readily available. At any moment the lost sinner can surrender their life to Christ, repent of their sins and receive salvation through the blood of Jesus. Then that person must turn from their old life. No more grabbing the spiritual toilet paper to cover up a continual cycle of sin and separation from God. When a person comes to Christ they must come fully surrendered and obedient, willing to turn completely from the old life so that they can experience the goodness God has promised.
Once we are born anew God does a work of regeneration in our souls. He breaks out lotions, creams and shampoos to restore our souls and make us into shining examples of His restorative power. Scratchy toilet paper just won't do in the Kingdom of God. He has much bigger blessings and promises for His beloved children.
Dear Friend, don't reach for the spiritual toilet paper any longer. God offers so much more and it is available to you just up on the next self.

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