By Scott Riggan
I awoke at 3:30 in the morning, suddenly aware that we had a visitor at our house. A very unwelcome visitor: a skunk.
Now this happens occasionally out in the country where we live, but this time the stench was unbelievable. It was so bad I thought I was going to be sick. I jumped out of bed to close the window – but the window was already closed. It was almost as if the skunk had gotten into the house – it was that bad.
I don’t know much about skunks, but as incredibly foul as the smell was, I wondered: do skunks travel in packs? Because we couldn’t be dealing with a single individual. … This had to be the work of a skunk army or something.
I think most of what I know about skunks comes from the movie “Bambi.” Remember that cute little skunk named Flower? I now have reason to suspect that this depiction may have been mere fiction.
Lying there in bed I started wondering: how can a skunk stand itself? Does it just get used to the smell? Or does it actually like it? Maybe for a skunk that smell is actually pleasant – like smelling roses or pine trees. We perceive the smell as Pure Evil Nastiness, while they perceive it as a beautiful aroma?
SEEMINGLY UNRELATED CONFESSION: A couple of weeks ago, I told a very small lie.
I was talking to a complete stranger who asked me an extremely personal question. I could’ve just said, “Hey now, that’s off limits, dude…”, but instead I gave him an answer to shut him up. I lied. And, I have to admit, that lie really didn’t bother me much.
So I was thinking about the fact that I didn’t seem to feel guilty about that lie, which then raised the question: how seriously do I take sin?
We know that God can’t tolerate sin – that it is an “offense” to him. So maybe we should think of it this way: sin is a stench in the nostrils of God.
Yes, I just typed the phrase “nostrils of God.” But stay with me for a minute. Our sins are an offense. Like, perhaps, the smell of a skunk.
I think sometimes we imagine that God is looking down from Heaven, watching all of the hijinks we get up to and saying, “Oh, those naughty rascals. I wish they would just behave.” But we figure He’s not really bothered much by our sins. Certainly not the “little” ones.
We need – no, I need to – remember that it was because of my sins that Christ died. God doesn’t regard sin casually. He takes it very seriously. We know this because of the very costly way He arranged for our forgiveness through Christ. My “little lie” may not have hurt anybody, but my integrity takes a hit every time I’m willing to be less than honest.
After the skunk incident, I asked my young kids to help me paraphrase Isaiah 1:18 (“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”) and they came up with: “Though your sins stink like a skunk, they shall be made to smell like roses” (my son Josiah), and “… made to smell like molten chocolate” (my daughter Emily) and “… cookies baking” (Josiah again).
Thankfully, God does forgive us for our failures. And He is continually shaping us into His image.
Lord forgive us for our casual attitude about the things that offend You.
Scott Riggan lives with his family on a small ranch in Emmett. He recorded a new album in 2021 titled “Beautiful and Terrible.” Go to scottriggan.com for more information.