Some of them haven’t showered in days, most of them don’t even know what soap is. Lice rampages through the shafts of their hair. Filth fills their nails; mud is permanently stained on their feet. They stink when their kids aren’t potty trained and don’t know what a diaper is. So these kids go around the village naked, going about their business everywhere, only to have the dogs clean up after them. They reek when they’re bedridden and battling a stage 3 pressure ulcer, and our resources are just not enough to keep them turned and off the ulcer. So it sits there with a dressing saturated with urine, drainage, and who knows what else, causing it to smell like none other. There’s a particularly horrendous stench when the spirits harass them, and they cannot think for themselves. Their sanity is lost along with their hygiene. It’s nauseating.
What’s especially worse is encountering these stinky people. Like when I’m clean and bathed for church, in nice and washed clothes, only to have 8 different lice-infested heads cuddle up next to mine in church. Their dirty fingers interlock with mine, their dirty skin rub against mine, causing my clean skin to contract what’s probably been on their skin for weeks. Or having our non-potty-trained, no-pants kid climb onto my lap for Sabbath snuggles, only to end up having my clean skirt now drenched with his urine by the time church is over. It’s difficult going to our bedridden patient’s home every shift, cleaning her and her ulcer. As hard as we try to keep her turned off her sacrum, to keep her dressing dry, our efforts seem to be going nowhere. The wound remains. She still stinks. Then there’s walking into our birthing-house-now-turned-asylum for my 4am shift, the stench of unclean spirits in an unclean body hits you like a wall. It takes everything to keep from vomiting.
But then I remember, I stink too. I stink with the filth of sin heavily embedded in the depths of my heart. Isaiah reminds me: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). My life reeks of irresponsibility, mishandling money, causing distress to those I love, selfishness, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, emotional instability, quick to anger and frustration, you name it. I love to walk around as though I’m clean, when in reality I’m clothed in filthy rags and shame. I am in need of a good wash too.
Then the God of the universe, who sees us in our filth, stoops down and cleanses us. He takes the hyssop and purges me so that I can be clean and washed, and made whiter than snow (Psalms 51:7). He loves me while I still roam around in my stench and gives me new clothes of righteousness to wear. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). And more than just cleansing us and giving us new clothes to wear, He sprays us with the sweet-smelling aroma of His fragrance, to be diffused to everyone (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). I can stand before my God cleansed by His blood, covered with the righteousness of Jesus, diffusing His aroma, because of His grace. My God is truly amazing.
Who then am I to resist His grace? I am indebted to share. Therefore I openly welcome these dirty people. I embrace them in their filth, sharing with them the cleansing power of Jesus. Thus I love the unloved kids, urine and all. I faithfully give bed baths and change stinky pressure ulcer dressings. I press on through the stench of evil spirits dwelling where they don’t belong, and persevere in prayer for my tormented friend. It’s what Jesus did for me. It’s what He wants to do for them. So I do thus, living in obedience to His calling, no matter how stinky people are. He loves stinky people like them, and He loves stinky people like me. Regardless, we all receive His cleansing blood and fragrant aroma. It’s for this I continue, it’s for this I live.