“Five in – five out!” the officer bawled as he walked the tiers. It was Tuesday night, and that was our cue to have our laundry ready to exchange. The officer would be by soon, and he wanted us at the ready.
Every Tuesday night the officers in Ad Seg (the hole) come door-to-door handing out a roll of laundry. Each roll has five pieces: a shirt, boxers, socks, a towel, and a sheet. We are expected to return five pieces in exchange. The process is simple, but for a germ freak like I am, it’s stressful.
Laundry exchange day is like playing the lottery. We have no choice of the roll that is shoved into our cells, or the sizes of the clothes in the roll. Plus, the department that launders the clothes must use little water, no detergent, and jam-pack the clothes into the machine. The dark, stained clothing tells that story well. Winning a clean or newer item in the “Laundry Exchange Lottery” is rare, but when it happens we feel like luck is on our side.
I was ready with my five pieces when he got to my door. He slid the small tray slot open and squeezed the roll in. After it was in, I slipped out my five pieces, one by one, counting as I went. “I like it when you guys are ready,” the officer said as he moved to the next cell. I smiled out of courtesy, then turned my attention to my roll. It sat on the foot of my bunk like a burrito. I stared at it for a few more seconds, then picked it up.
A towel wrapped around the outside kept the roll together, and it smelled like a skunk. Its gray-brown color screamed “No detergent EVER!” I dropped it onto the floor. Then I began the “peel.” The boxers were next. I pinched the waist, and began to reveal my prize. They were a little brown, with a heavier brown color in the rear, but the worst is that they were two sizes (at least) too small. The boxers joined the towel.
Socks. They were tucked one into the other in a ball. That ball of socks lay directly on top of the last item, the sheet. The nicely-folded sheet surprised me by its very bright white appearance. I was excited, but first I needed to look more closely at the socks. I placed the sheet on the foot of my bed and refocused on the ball.
With two hands I unballed the ball and pulled out the first sock. It had holes in the toes and the heel. Plus, it was not a state sock – it was someone’s personal sock thrown away into the dirty laundry. The second sock was a well-worn state sock, but there was no way I could put my foot into that quagmire of germs. The socks joined the boxers and the towel.
My gaze then turned to the bright white sheet. I stood there in awe that somehow this beautiful white sheet made it into the hole. A passing officer noticed I stood there, with a contented smile on my face, looking at my bunk. He came close to the window, saw what I was looking at, and with an evil giggle said, “Looks white, huh?”
Looks white? His words startled me. There was something I didn’t know yet, but he did. “Sure does!” I replied. He walked away, and I could hear him laughing as he disappeared from view.
As soon as he was gone, I reached down to pick up the sheet. Nothing appeared to be wrong with this white, perfectly-folded sheet. I lifted it up to my nose and smelled it. No musky smell. No skunk smell. Actually, no smell at all.
Maybe the officer was trying to play with my mind. They like to do that. “That must be it,” I said to myself, as I grabbed two corners of the sheet and shook it open. A nice “snap” signaled its unfurling, like a flag on July 4th.
The horror before my eyes actually elicited a girly scream from me. Dropping the sheet, I stepped back. What was THAT? I had to look again.
I picked up the sheet and closely examined it. A large blood-brown stain in the shape of a body filled the middle of the sheet. Around the large stains floated smaller stain circles.
Either someone had bled to death on the sheet, or it was rusty from sitting on a steel shell while it was still damp. Either way, the spooky stain gave me goose bumps. How could such a sheet, promising so much with its bright white edges, hide such an ugly, dead stain on the inside? This sheet was a two-faced hypocrite! Nicely folded, it looked perfectly put together, but inside it hid an ugly secret.
I think back to my life before I knew Christ. My polished life appeared to be perfectly put together. My friends often said they wished they had my life. Neighbors would wonder how I did it. My perfectly folded edges gave a beautiful impression. But what people saw was just that – the edges.
I knew how ugly and dead my life really was. I put as much effort into hiding my stains as I did looking clean. The juggle was dangerous, but it was all I knew. God, however, didn’t need me to unfold my life. He knew how dead and ugly I was inside. My perfectly-folded white edges didn’t fool Him. My empty soul and dead spirit could not be hidden from the all-knowing Creator.
Praise be to God that His love was not deterred by the real me. Not only was He there, He sent His Son to die for me – to save me. And the blood that He shed washed me clean, inside out.
What was stained and dead was made alive and clean. A whole new me was born, and there was no longer a need to hide. My shame was gone and my hope was born.
Our Creator wants to do the same with you. Are you ready to stop being a hypocrite? Give your ugly and dead life to the only One Who can change it.
……………….still playing “Laundry Lotto” every Tuesday……….
Adrian G. Torres