Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting the Crud Out

In high school, I worked for a mechanic during the summer. I loved the work but had one recurring issue: grime. I was a magnet for it. I’d open a hood and grime would launch from the engine and attach to my hands. At first I’d just wipe my hands on my jeans, then the owner told me to put a shop rag in my back pocket and wipe my hands on the rag. My mom was most grateful for that suggestion. But, what I found was, after several wipes, the rag would become saturated with oil and grease. Once saturated it became useless. You can’t clean your hands with a dirty rag. At that point I’d throw it into the box and get a clean rag.
Refineries have a similar problem: how to get rid of residual gases. In the process of transforming crude into usable products there are unnecessary elements released that have no useful purpose. Solution: burn them. That’s why in almost every refinery, somewhere on property, there is a tall stack with an ever-present flame coming out of the top. The size of that flame reflects the amount of residual gases being burned off. I often wonder what’s being released in the process.
My dad was a printer. In his shop he had a linotype machine. Back in the day that was the ultimate word processor for printing. It cast a whole line of words into one slender slug (a line of type). That made typesetting faster and more uniform. Newspapers once used these extensively. The slug was made from molten lead. A fire pot on the side of the linotype kept the solution liquid. A plunger drove the liquid into a form where it would set instantly. Within seconds liquid lead became a usable slug of words. When lead melts, impurities rise to the top. With a quick swipe by a strainer the sludge would be removed and the lead left ready for use. You couldn’t make a usable slug with cruddy lead.
How do we get rid of the crud in our lives? Sometimes wiping it off results in just smearing it around. Sometimes burning it releases toxins into the air. Sometimes melting it down produces excessive sludge. I suggest letting God have it. I don’t know what He does with it, but when He takes it away it’s gone.  No residuals. In fact, He can make us so clean it’s like we never were dirty in the first place. Now that’s really clean.

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