Approximately a couple of decades ago, when my daughter was still in elementary school, she came home with a piece of paper indicating that head lice had been discovered among some of her classmates.
The sheet of paper contained a list of actions we should take as a family, including boiling all of our hair brushes. Although there was absolutely no evidence that any of us were infected, we were not the types to pick nits, (Yeah, I did that on purpose.) so we dutifully complied.
The next morning, my freshly-sanitized hair brush broke in half.
Now, I realize that a hair brush is a material object and there is no hair brush on this planet I will be taking to heaven with me, but this particular hair brush had been given to me by my dear saintly mother when I was but 13 years old. I had been brushing my hair with it (yes, in the exact same style) through no less than five US Presidents.
Of course, replacing a hair brush should be absolutely no problem at all in a land of outrageous, even decadent, abundance like ours.
Every big-box outlet in every town in America sells hair brushes for such ridiculously low prices that every citizen of this nation can easily afford to own their own personal hair brush, right? And while I did find that to be true, I also found myself stuck in a Goldilocks conundrum.
After brushing my hair with the same tool for longer than I would care to admit, I had become very accustomed to the exact degree of stiffness/softness of the bristles in that brush. I bought some hair brushes that were so soft they failed to detangle my hair. Others were so stiff they irritated my scalp.
And then one day, while shopping in a big-box store which has since failed and closed nation-wide, I found a brush with a wooden handle and 100% natural boar bristles. “Ahhh!” I thought to myself, “Stylish, attractive, and earth-friendly! This is sure to be THE hairbrush I will own for the remainder of my life!”
I smiled smugly as I left the store.
The very next morning, after exiting the shower, I began brushing through my hair with the newly-acquired brush and was quite pleased with the comfort and efficacy of said item when, suddenly, a strange smell caught my attention. “What IS that smell?” I thought to myself. “It smells like…like…roadkill, like a dead animal!”
Sure enough, I very shortly determined that the horribly repulsive smell now filling the bathroom was emanating from my shiny new hair brush. Apparently, our friends in Communist China had stolen the boar from a buzzard’s banquet and failed to deodorize the bristles before affixing them to the stylish handle.
The odor was so intense and repulsive I gave absolutely no thought at all to attempting to wash, cleanse, or otherwise deodorize this hideous affront to humanity.
No, it was going back to the store. I dug the packaging and the receipt out of the garbage and began to play out in my head all the things I would say when I returned the brush. I plotted my revenge at least until my lunch break from work.
Once in line at the Customer Service Area, I patiently waited my turn, stepped up, and presented the brush in the original packaging, with the receipt, to the lady behind the counter. Let’s say her name tag said, “Marge.”
“I’d like to return this hair brush, please. It smells like dead animals,” I said.
To my utter amazement, Marge placed the hair brush in a cart beside her, punched a few buttons, opened the cash register, and handed me $6.34 or whatever it was I had paid for the brush. She did not question me, she did not raise an eyebrow, she did not ask for any details, and she did not sniff the hair brush at all!
I was shocked. How could she NOT sniff the hair brush? What living human being would not seek to verify a claim like that when an item was returned? Who could possibly resist the temptation to smell a hair brush the customer claims smells like dead animals? Why was I being cheated out of seeing the look of horror and revulsion on her face when she inevitably succumbed to the temptation of smelling the hair brush?
As I look back on it now, there are a number of possible scenarios: 1.I was not the first person who had returned a hair brush with this problem and Marge did not need nor want to verify my story. 2. Marge was imminently wise and knew that there was absolutely no way she could win an argument under the premise, “No, it does not smell like dead animals. I smell nothing.” 3. Even if I was lying or experiencing olfactory hallucinations, it was not worth losing a customer over a $6.34 roadkill-scented hairbrush. 4. Marge was also due for her lunch break and had instantly made the choice that would result in me leaving the store as quickly as possible.
Whatever the case, Marge had resisted a temptation I would have succumbed to. I would have smelled the hair brush. And it would not have been pretty. It would have been stupid and pointless and accomplished nothing.
There are thousands of excellent reasons not to smell the hair brush and not a single good reason to have done it –but almost all of us would have done so, too.
Why are we like that? What is it in the human psyche that wants to try something we know is bad, just to see how bad it really is? Why do we revel in the bad? Why do we succumb to temptation and go there?
Years ago, I used to try to resist temptation by saying, “Satan, get behind me.” Of course, I said that because that’s what Jesus said when He was tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:9, Matthew 4:10)
And then one day, it occurred to me that I didn’t want Satan following me around all day. Furthermore, Jesus had most certainly NOT said, “Satan, go stand behind Dan Jones.” Jesus told Satan he belonged in His past –after and under the power and Lordship of Jesus.
So, I resolved that when I was tempted I would instead pray, “Satan, go stand behind Jesus.”
That puts Satan in his proper place, with Jesus standing between us. I face my Savior, the LORD of lords and King of kings, and revel in his power and mercy and grace and glory and I worship Him and Him alone.
And the enemy of my soul, the liar who comes to steal and kill and destroy, is relegated to the background and his mountain of stinking roadkill hairbrushes.
But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. Acts 2:24 (NLT)