Of all the places we have lived (and there have been a few), Feodora owns the market on all things perpetual, interminable, unremitting and unceasing (Yes, I am aware those are all synonyms. Aren’t you glad I didn’t bother to type on the other 53 that I found?). When we first arrived here, I was gobsmacked by the sheer volume of the traffic outside our house, and at all hours. The noise NEVER STOPS. Motorcyclists with death wishes (my, my, I am all about the repetitive and redundant today), emergency vehicles with their sirens blaring, street racers (why?? Just… WHY??), and your average commuter who seems to be living under a misapprehension that every time he buckles his seat belt, he is headed off to avert nuclear holocaust, all by himself, and thus it justifies driving like a maniac and laying on the horn anytime the car in front of him dares to drive the speed limit.
(Side note: there is currently an ad campaign running on the radio, because, as we have previously established, I have Luddite tendencies and actually listen to a physical radio every morning –I’ll wait while you whippersnappers look up what that is– about the dangers of speeding. There is no such thing as “safely going over the speed limit”, not even a little bit. One mile over the speed limit and you will literally die, did you know that? Now… go with me on this… Suppose you were driving the speed limit at, say, 55 MPH and then it changed down to 45. Does your life expectancy change with it? Technically, 55 was a whole 10 MPH too fast… but not 5 feet ago… I think our government is missing Covid and is scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit on ways to control us.)
But in recent weeks, a new cacophany has arisen, not on the road itself, but directly across from it, at the neighbor’s shop. There have always been shipping containers moving in and out of this gravel lot, and I never overthought it, but in the last few weeks, they have taken to employing absolutely gigantic machinery to drag a grader the size of my ancient car across said gravel. All. Day. Long. I happened to be awake at 4:19 AM today and you’ll never guess who else was up and at ’em…
I was prepared to be neighborly, to assume that surely they were not trafficking in anything illegal or unsavory. They probably load, store and ship diapers or organic breakfast cereal. But that was before they took to rattling my dishes, my windows, and my brain 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. Now? My suspicions are aroused. What are you dropping in the dirt that requires such excessive grading?? If I go and snort a dollar bill’s worth of neighborly dust, will I begin to have visions of Mel Brooks cooking eggs in my washing machine? My silence, dear neighbor, could be bought with your silence at this point in time.
In theory, however, given enough time, I could probably get used to all this dreadful noise. I wonder if I want that…
This, quite obviously (I promise, it is not my intent to infantilize my beloved readers by making such oversimplified connections) takes me back to the time I learned how to deseed a pomegranate. Or, to be more accurate, the time I learned how not to do it.
There was a particular season in my life when the world of culinary possibilities began to open up to me. I lived near a small, foodie town that heavily emphasized shopping small and eating local and I began to explore the glory of having my own haunts — butcher, baker, cheese shop, vegetable stand. Around that time, I discovered Nigella Lawson and honestly, I probably only bought her cookbook because it was pink. Some of my best discoveries have begun this way (later, we can discuss Sophie Dahl and I will prove my point). She had a recipe for a no-churn pomegranate ice cream and I was intrigued, partly because I was a teensy bit afraid of using the ice cream maker, and partly because pomegranates sounded like such a sophisticated sort of fruit and I was excited to be growing, maybe even growing up.
Well… I learned some important lessons. Do not cut a pomegranate and half and start breaking out seeds the way you might on a lemon. It causes an abundant amount of very dark, very staining juice to splatter EVERYWHERE. There was juice on all my cupboards, on my ceiling, on my face, behind the coffeemaker, and inside drawers that weren’t even open. It looked like a crime scene, the sort that television networks stick into shows that they want to be too edgy for prime time.
(In case you are curious, the correct way to get seeds out of a pomegranate is to gently cut the fruit in half, and then turn each half upside down in a bowl of cold water and turn them inside out, the way you might with a sock. The seeds pop out, happy as you please, with no homicidal visage.)
Here is my point: You and I have sins, or perhaps temptations to sin, that we have allowed ourselves to grow accustomed to — what used to be absolutely jarring to us with the grating sound on our consciences has become a dull, background noise. Has the language you speak become less careful over time? Do you justify the occasional use of profanity, or rudeness, or gossip… only to find that it doesn’t shock you anymore, nor is it all that occasional? At some point, did you stop treating your spouse with affection? Did you permit a low-grade irritation to become a full-blown disrespect? Did it begin with a critical spirit, with neglecting the basics — do you kiss him goodbye when he leaves for work, or when he comes home? Do you remember the last time you thanked him for something? For everything? For anything? Has sin crept into your prayer life, to your time reading the Word of God? Did it begin as a one day that you were just too busy… and now you have developed a habit of being far from your Lord?
Let’s suppose God in His kindness convicts us of this hardening, of this tolerance for sin. What now? Resist the temptation to offer a worldly solution to your sin — there is only one way back to a tender conscience, only one way back to fellowship with God and man, and it is NOT through you “doing better”. You cannot shame yourself into holiness. You cannot create enough organization, enough “swear jars”, enough schedule rearrangement, enough sweat on your brow to undo your sin. If you take to cutting out this sin in your own strength, you will look up to find that you have splattered your life with the mess of self-reliance, of self-righteousness and guess what — the noisy sin you were trying to deal with in the first place will still be there. Only now, you are also sticky.
Drop it. Drop all of it at the foot of the cross. Plead your Lord for mercy, for He delights to give it, delights to pull you out of the pit you have dug for yourself and set your feet in a wide place. There is no sin you can commit that is too great for Him to redeem you out of! You cannot clean yourself up! His love for you is so far beyond what you can imagine, and in Him, victory is yours over every last sin, every stubborn disobedience, over all your best efforts. Only He can silence the noise… only He can make us clean, even today.