I hate roaches.
I do not use the word hate casually. We are made in the image of a loving God. We are made in love. We are made for love. We are made to love.
Hate is un-Divine. It is unbecoming of us, as cosmic dust whirling and dancing in the billion galaxies, to hate.
I hate roaches.
I hate everything about them.
I hate the way they look.
I hate the way they crawl.
I hate their furry legs.
I hate their antennas.
I hate their color.
I hate that when I see one of them, I know there are thousands more nearby.
I consider roaches to be one of the few mistakes the good Lord has ever made. Being a Florida boy, I even had to put up with roaches that fly. Oh sure, we gave them a new name to distract us from the fact that they were roaches. We called them Palmetto bugs.
Let’s get real: They are freakin’ roaches. Freaking flying roaches. And just because God has a good sense of humor, they squirt a nasty liquid when they feel threatened. Freakin’ flying roaches squirting nasty-smelling liquid.
Why, oh why, Lord of light and love and mercy and justice?
Last week, I was at work, and walking with my friend Julie through a stairway in our building. There, on the third stair, there was a roach. Mercifully, it was dead. On its back. Dead. Dead.
Somehow roaches are even ugly in their death. For a minute my sense of disgust was tempered by a curiosity. How do they end up on their backs? Do roaches think? Do they ponder, Oh, dear me, I am about to die! I should turn over on my back?
But I digress. There was a dead roach. In my office building. On a stair. Dead, dead. Disgusting even in death. On my stair.
My friend and I paused to share our disgust at the dead roach.
That was Tuesday. Last week.
This week, the next Tuesday, I used the same stairway. And there was the same dead roach.
Still on the third stair.
Still on its back.
Still causing disgust, even in death.
So I went to my friend. “Remember that dead roach that we saw last week on the stairway? It’s still there.” She laughed at my obsession with the dead roach.
My thoughts about the dead roach quickly led to thinking:
“Why have the cleaning crew not cleaned up the stairway?
Why haven’t they done their job?
Why has no one removed this disgusting dead roach?”
Why had no one removed the dead roach?
The real question was this:
Why had I not removed the dead roach?
We are like this.
Each one of us has dead roaches on the inside.
We each carry dead roaches in our lives.
We each have things in our lives that cause us pain, that cause us disgust. Sometimes they are bigger than we are. But so often we actually have power, real power, to remove them.
And yet, we don’t. All too often, we don’t.
We live with them. We sit there, watching with disgust, pain, and suffering, the trauma they cause us. Sometimes we see it. Sometimes we feel the trauma, unseen.
Sometimes the dead roach is a torment of a past relationship. Sometimes it’s an abusive person. Sometimes it is our own feeling of not having lived the life that we so aspire to live. Sometimes it’s a violation, an ongoing humiliation.
But we don’t touch the dead roaches on the inside.
We walk away.
We hope that someone else will remove it for us.
We think it’s someone else’s job to remove it.
Far too often, no one else does.
It’s no one else’s job.
It is our job.
It is my job.
The truth of the matter is that I myself did not remove the dead roach on the stairway. I was disgusted, I ran away, but I did not apply my own power. I let my disgust override my own power, my agency.
Let us, you and I, begin by grabbing a paper towel, picking up the roach, and flushing it down the toilet to that abyss where God’s terrible creatures go to never be seen again.
Let us remove the dead roaches of our lives. It is our job. No one else’s.
We cannot live in a roach-free world. Suffering and pain are woven into the fabric of this world, as are hope, joy, and love. We can live lives where we don’t have to be perpetually traumatized by them.
Let us remove the pain and suffering.
We have more power than we realize.