The Dish Soap Fix

My brother Greg cussed like nobody’s business when he was a kid. He could put together truly imaginative combinations of cuss words. He was the Picasso of bile, the Rembrandt of rancor, the DaVinci of profanity.

The thing was, he never got caught. Greg could go from cursing me under his breath in our bedroom to being as sweet as pie when my mom walked in. It was like living with multiple personalities. Have you read the poem written by the guy with multiple personality disorder? “Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m a schizophrenic and I am too!” I kept waiting for Greg to spew split pea soup and rotate his head like the girl in The Exorcist, but it never happened. At least not while I was watching…

I would tell my mom that Greg was cussing, not because I wanted to get him in trouble, but because I had a sincere concern for my brother’s spiritual well being (if you believe that, I’ve got a great used car I’ll sell you).

My mom never believed that Greg would talk that way. As far as she was concerned, Greg was perfect and could do no wrong. (Reader, to get the maximum effect from the following, please read aloud in a whiny voice) He never caused fights, talked back, forgot to do chores, kicked the dog or did anything wrong. Greg was perfect, Greg was sweet, Greg helped little old ladies across the street, Greg was… Well, you get the idea.

One day, Greg was delivering a particularly vile tirade against Charlie, a poor little kid whose only crime was being in the bathroom when Greg needed it. Mom had gone next door for something and came back without Greg knowing it. I stood in the doorway to our bedroom and drank in the whole glorious scene. There was Greg, cussing like a drunken sailor at this poor little kid who was afraid to come out of the bathroom just in case Greg would or could actually do ANY of the things he was threatening. My mom must have stood behind him for a good two minutes (good for me, bad for Greg!). Gradually it dawned on Greg that something was amiss, so he turned around to see what was wrong.

The next few moments play like a glorious videotape in my head. Mom never said a word, just grabbed Greg by the arm and marched him into the kitchen. When she finally did speak to him, it was just two words, “Open up.”

Greg closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and waited. I watched in rapture as my mom grabbed the bottle of dishwashing detergent from the counter. It was Joy, I recall. She popped open the lid and squirted a big shot right into Greg’s mouth. She must have seen my glee because she looked at me and said, “Do you want to be next?”

Greg began to choke, sputter and wail. “You’re trying to kill me, I’m going to die!” I tell you, it was one of the highlights of my life! Then Greg made a decision I am sure he stills regrets; he asked for a glass of water.

As soon as the water hit his detergent-enriched mouth, foam began pouring from his lips. He blew bubbles until it looked like Lawrence Welk had come to visit. I had to leave the house, the urge to laugh was just too powerful, and I was not about to risk my mom’s wrath by gloating in Greg’s face. Greg had taken a bad situation and made it worse.

I’ve done the same thing so many times. A situation will arise, and instead of thinking and then reacting, I just launch out. More often than not, trouble follows. As I get older, I am trying to learn to stop and get some wisdom before I dig myself a hole that will require dishwashing detergent to fix.

Of course, the best place to get wisdom is from God. Eugene Peterson paraphrases James 1:5 and 6 like this, “If you don’t know what you are doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help, and you won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought” (James 1:5,6 The Message).

It helps me to know that I’m not in this on my own. I can go to somebody greater than myself for help and He’ll give it.

Hoping Greg won’t kill me when he reads this…. Jerry

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