We were driving back to Texas when a plague of biblical proportion swept into the open windows and defiled our car.
The family was exhausted from our trip. The long drive home was even more taxing. The plan was to stop and overnight soon.
But, just west of Birmingham, we were overcome by a heavy putrid stench. We had never smelled this sickening smell before. What was it? Was an Alabamian boiling peanuts?
We closed the windows and turned on the AC. Didn’t help! We asked the boys to change their socks. Didn’t help. We tried breathing through our mouths. It tasted as bad as it smelled.
Rather than stopping, we decided to drive on until we got beyond the stench. BUT it still oppressed us in Bessemer, and then Tuscaloosa, and into Toomsuba, Mississippi.
And there was despair in the car. For three hours we had been in the grips of the stench. My daughter was turning blue.
Somewhere just east of Jackson, MS, I tried to pass a tractor-trailer and what I saw on the open air trailer was ghastly. The trailer had legs and hooves popping out of it in every direction. It looked like one big, disgusting stockyard pin cushion.
The truck must have been headed to a rendering plant, where the barnyard bereaved would be recycled into useful household products. There is a reason why there is a cow on your bottle of Elmer’s Glue?
And we had followed in the stinking wake of that truck for 3 hours.
I stomped on the gas and sped past it and we sailed into sweet, wonderful, fresh air. Forget the motel. There was no way I was gonna let that truck get in front of me again.
The truck left behind a stench. Some people do that too!
There is the girl at school who always seems to be walking away from a conflict or the guy that has wrecked four marriages and is now is on his fifth. There is a stench of sorts that the angry dad leaves behind for his kids. And what the about the boss who loses employees faster than he can hire new? Then there is that woman at church who leaves people feeling like they have been to court and lost.
It shouldn’t be that way!
In the 23rd Psalm David taught us that sheep who follow their shepherd are fed, watered, restored, directed and protected.
But then the Psalm winds up in a curious way. David wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (vs. 6) NET Bible ®
In other words: David left behind a sweetness instead of a stench.
Phillip Keller in his book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, explained that sheep can enhance the quality of a pasture. They eat noxious weeds that would otherwise choke out the good and they fertilize the soil as well. He wrote, “In a few years, a flock of well managed sheep will clean up and restore a piece of ravaged land as no other creature can do.” (pg 131)
David understood this and applied it to himself as a sheep. As he followed the lead of his Shepherd, it impacted the way he treated others.
His nation celebrated his righteous leadership. The son of Saul was grateful for David’s mercy. The army that faced Goliath was inspired by his faith. David’s followers were moved by his transparency and humility. He was the kind of man you wanted to follow because he sweetened the pasture for those who did.
Are you leaving a sweetness or a stench? Stop! Turn around! Look at the people you just left. Make sure they are wearing a smile instead of a sneer!