I think all of us in this country have some Puritan influences in our characters. I don’t mean that we enjoy three hour sermons or want to hang our neighbors as witches (or maybe some of us do). These influences show up in subtle ways, like my reaction to commercials on British TV. Let’s just say there’s a lot more nudity in ads in the mother country. And at the funeral of French President François Mitterrand in 1996, his wife and long-time mistress stood side by side at the service. Think that would happen here? Just think of the reaction to John Edwards’ and Arnold Schwartznegger’s indiscretions and you have the general idea. The difference is the Puritan basis of our culture.
I was thinking also about the Puritan tendency to make parables out of daily events. If your barn was struck by lightning and burned down, you were being punished by God for some secret sin. If your cow went dry, it possibly meant your neighbor was a witch. They devoted a lot of time and effort to trying to make sense of what they called “the Book of the World.”
Now, I’m a Baptist, not a Puritan, but I sometimes see parables in events. One is happening right now as I’m trying to clean my deck. Let me say first that we are not Outdoor People. We don’t camp or spend much time outdoors but rather scurry from our house to our cars and then to our destination, which is usually indoors. I appreciate the National Parks as much as anyone, but I can enjoy them on PBS. Anyhow, we have a little ten by ten deck on the back of the house where we keep the trash can and recycling bin and a propane-fired grill (which we rarely use). I have probably not cleaned the deck for five years? six years? I forget. It got to looking so bad I decided I had to clean it.
I read up about cleaning wooden decks online and saw something called “House Clean” which is a hose end cleaner that you attach to the end of a hose (go figure), apply the special solution to the deck and then rinse it off. Right. I think this method cleaned about two square feet down to the brown wood. The rest of the deck stayed the same nasty black or green. The green is mold or fungus or something. The black is particulate matter from jets landing at Dulles Airport. When we had our roof redone a few years back, I asked the guy about white shingles, thinking they would reflect some of the heat from the sun. He didn’t recommend them because the black stuff from the jets caused the shingles to look streaky. So we went with gray shingles which have worked out well. No black streaks.
So, I applied another round of House Clean and came up with about four square feet of brown deck. I then switched to detergent and scrubbing on my knees with a brush. About six square feet. Then I tried a bleach solution, which gave me eight square feet. I’m creeping up on it, but I know I used something last time that worked well. So, I’m off to the hardware store to see what they recommend. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
And the parable in all this? It’s to not let things go, no matter what they are. It’s better to keep up with whatever you need to keep up with whether it’s a deck or a relationship. If you don’t, there’s always a price to pay.