Sunday, March 4, 2012
For the next several Sundays, I'm reprinting a series of articles I did for an Arkansas newspaper: A Piece of Lint
Ever think much about lint? Not the liturgical stuff before Easter (that one’s spelled Lent), but the stuff that gets on your clothes? Me either. At least not until my son, Keith, was complaining about it the other day. Everybody seems to complain about it. I don’t think I have ever heard a single person say anything nice about it.
Well, I didn’t know much about it except that our dryer has a filter for it and, boy, does it fill up fast. If the filter ever wears out, I could probably use one of my black suits in its place because they sure collect a lot of it. Once I got to thinking about it, I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary and discovered that by definition it is a “particle of fluff.” Not just fluff, but a mere particle of it. Fittingly, it was first used in printed English in 1665 as follows: “Driving the lint from his black Cloathes With his Wet Thumb.” Seems we have always had trouble with lint.
You would think that something as small as lint wouldn’t be as big an irritant as it is. We are talking about particles here. Pretty small stuff. Yet, some of us have an uncontrollable urge not only to notice it, but to even reach out and pick it off of other people’s clothes! Lint pickers.
Oh, I’ve done it myself, so I recognize the symptoms. Once we start looking for it, we find it. And once we find it, it bothers us until we pick it off or get someone else to do it. Of course, while we’re seeing the lint, we are not seeing much of anything else. Just that little piece of lint. Some folks think this is a gender thing – that women naturally see the little bitty stuff and men see the great big stuff. This is not the case when it comes to lint sighting and lint picking. Some of the biggest lint pickers I have ever known were men.
No, we can’t lay this off on anything but our own predisposition to look for flaws in or on other people. It’s almost like we have our own lint filters in the lenses of our eyes, narrowing our focus until all we can see is the lint.
My own belief is that because we each know that we, ourselves, are flawed, we seem to need to find the flaws in others in order to reassure ourselves that we are OK. Kind of an “If you’re not OK, then I’m OK” equation. But this really isn’t healthy, and picking metaphorical lint off other people only deters us from cleaning up our own acts.
I don’t know if they had lint in Jesus’ day, but they must have had something close to it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to stop trying to pick the mote or speck from our neighbor’s eye when we’ve got a log in our own (Matthew 7:3-4). You would think that having a log in your eye would seriously cut down on your ability to see, not to mention making you rather stand out among your peers.
It would also be a difficult thing to live with. Every time you turned around you would be smashing somebody or something with that log. Pretty soon, most folks would be avoiding you like the plague, except for one group – the folks that also had logs sticking out of their own eyes.
As it turns out, this is pretty much the case today for those of us with metaphorical logs in our eyes. It does, indeed, keep us from seeing the bigger picture, and it does keep us focusing on the little stuff.
Lint is lint. It is not important. It is small and petty and insignificant, and when we spend our time looking for it on others it makes us small and petty and insignificant. We can live with lint. It is not like cancer or radiation or other small things that can harm us. Lint is benign. It doesn’t do any damage to anything, yet many of us seem to have devoted our lives to lint picking. What a waste!
Jesus calls us to be more important than that, to be significant in God’s eyes by reaching out a helping hand to others – not one picking at lint. Almost all of us have suffered at the hands of lint pickers. You’d think we would have learned not to do it ourselves. If we stop looking at the lint and start looking in the eyes of the children God created, we might find so many wonderful things we might never see the lint again. Life is full of flaws, and it takes no expertise to find them. What does take effort is finding the beauty in each one of us. That beauty is there because God created us.