When my son worked at IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, he shared a house with three or four other young men. One day in the spring he noticed an unpleasant odor in his car. At first it was a mild inconvenience but after a while it became a significant nuisance. He purchased a series of air freshener products but the odor easily overpowered them. He looked around a little and could not unravel the mystery of the bad smell. It got so bad he told me he considered trading in his car for a newer one. He wondered if someone put cheese on his manifold as a joke.
Finally one day he discovered the source of the odor. He opened the trunk of the car and the stench nearly knocked him off his feet. Over a month earlier he had bought a chicken for his housemates and put it in the trunk. He forgot it was there. Until the arrival of spring the chicken stayed frozen, but with the nice weather things turned ugly. That’s when the smell became impossible to ignore.
His roommates didn’t seem hungry so he threw the old chicken away. He cleaned up his trunk and decided to keep his car after all. I told him maybe in the future he should keep his chicken on the front seat because it is harder to ignore if it is there.
Most things really don’t get better if you ignore them. Take it from me. I have tried to ignore a lot of unpleasant things in my time. Like the little “character projects” that need attention in my life. That’s one way to say it. Another way to say it would be that there are sinful patterns in my life that need to be uprooted and replaced with patterns of holiness and obedience. When I do that the result is called character. Character is the imprint of Christlikeness in the deepest part of your soul and it is the work of the Spirit in our lives. Theologians call it sanctification. Romans eight says that all things work together ultimately to conform us to the image of Christ. That is true character at its best.
Developing character is a process that can only begin when we are willing to admit that something is rotten within. In other words you have to face the evidence that you have yourself a rotten chicken in your trunk. The longer you try to ignore it the harder it will be for you and the people around you to live with its stench.
Riverfront Character Inn
May 2, 2005