Friday, December 7, 2012

The Hydrogen Peroxide Principle



We have a unique moniker for hydrogen peroxide in our home.  Around here we call it, "brown juice." If you're familiar, you know that hydrogen peroxide is neither "brown" nor is it "juice" (definitely don't drink it please).  So, you may be wondering how it came to be called such.

I suppose it had something to do with the fact that we once had 7 children under the age of 8.  Because of this, I became so adept at "translating" English into "Barneyese" (that is to say, "something else that young children will more likely comprehend") that I would change words spontaneously sometimes without even realizing it.  Once while reading the Narnia books to the children, I realized I was changing every other word because it was either too sophisticated or too British and they wouldn't understand the usage.  It was years before I realized that I was "dumbing" them down.  Consequently, my children got sort of the "street" version of Narnia, LOTR, and the Little House series (to name a few).  I got so natural at it, that I should have worked on the New Translation of the KJV Bible.  I'm sure they could have used my finely honed skilz.  Now I realize how valuable it is to read the actual words to children, as they glean so much in context.  But that's another post.

So, around here we have "brown juice." It's simple really: Hydrogen Peroxide usually comes in an unmistakeable brown jug, and it is a liquid.  Hence, to a four year old, it makes sense to call it "brown juice." And even though most of the children are quite a bit older now, no one ever takes the trouble to say "H-Y-D-R-O-G-E-N  P-E-R-O-X-I-D-E." Why would they when it's so much simpler to say, "brown juice?" Dumbed down. Sad.

I've created other linguistic road blocks for them as well.  For example, the sideboard or lowboy in the foyer is merely the "big brown thing in the front hall."  This travesty is certainly not my sweet mother's fault.  She has a flair for language. When I was a child, I remember her taking Greek and Hebrew classes at night at a local college in Maryland.  (My siblings are quite good too.  My sister Sara holds a master's degree in Russian linguistics and now writes texts books and teaches at BYU-I).  Mother was always careful to call things by their right and proper names, giving credit also to the etymology of each word by carefully emphasizing correct pronunciation.  The foyer was always the "FOY-ay" for instance.  We sometimes had dinner "BOO-fay" (buffet) style.  On Mexican night, we enjoyed, "fa- HEE-tas" (fajitas).  She never accidentally slipped into "American," even when saying things really fast.  Yep, she's a blue blood.  A lingua purist.  

So, I'm somewhat of a disappointment I guess. Because I'm all about understanding.  I just really really want people to understand.  I often simplify. or use object lessons.  or pictures.  or sign language.  You won't come away with the French pronunciation, but by golly you will NOT mistake the lowboy for the sideboard.  

Enter Brown Juice.  The other day (or rather the other WEEK because it took so long) I was painting/staining my kitchen cupboards.  They used to be a lovely, warm, golden oak color.  But I craved more light in our kitchen, so I painted them "Quilter's White," then glazed them (ever so slightly), with a dark brown stain.

The prep and painting alone took several coats and several days.  When I was finally ready to apply the stain, I was excited!  I couldn't wait to see the final result after so much hard work!  I did not anticipate, however, the affect it would have on my hands.  Of course I completely ignored the warning to wear gloves while using the stain (as any self respecting DIY housewife would).  I assumed I could seamlessly jump from staining cupboards to making dinner, to driving the carpool and back to the cupboards as my time would permit.  Hmmm. How wrong that was.

By the end of my first staining session, my hands were completely covered with dark brown sludge.  every crevice of my skin had been infiltrated.  My fingernails resembled the hands of an Orc.  I looked positively ghoulish.  Needing to dash out and drive someone somewhere, I hurriedly bounded up the stairs to wash my hands.  I washed and washed, with soap too, mind you.  Futile.  Getting more desperate, I spied the familiar brown container of hydrogen peroxide on the counter (we use it for all little scrapes).  

I grabbed the bottle and generously poured the "juice" all over my hands, hoping for a miracle.  What happened was unexpected and unwelcome at that moment.  Instead of the cleansing I anticipated, I received instead, a deeper healing.

Unbeknownst to me, all of the work on the cupboards (the scrubbing, the sanding, deglossing, filling holes, taping, painting, etc.) had put my hands through some trauma.  They were now rough, a little chapped, with small abrasions all over my skin, not to mention my unkempt cuticles.  As I applied the brown juice to my stained hands, hoping to merely cleanse, I was surprised to experience instead, a baptism of fire!

My previously imperceivable skin flaws, hidden under layers of stain, suddenly became painfully apparent!  Some of the stain came off, but not much.  I would learn that it would take me several days and several showers to undo the mistake of just not putting gloves on in the first place.  But more importantly, the cleaning agent I had employed (the Brown Juice) gave me more than I had bargained for.  I was eventually cleaned, yes.  But more poignantly, I was healed.

Perhaps you can guess my metaphor here.  So often in life, whenever I attempt to get closer to my Savior, I spend more time in the scriptures, more time in the temple, more time fasting, praying, pondering, more time repenting.  As I generously apply the Atonement in these moments, I eagerly anticipate the cleansing power to wash over me and help me feel hopeful and clean again.

Many times, I find, however, that true repentance takes a little time.  It is a process as we go from mere recognition of our mistakes, to the deeper understanding needed to have a true change of heart or to rectify wrongs in our lives.  It may come more slowly than we would wish, but it will come.  And the cleansing is no less a miracle for the time it takes to carefully change.

And then there is the unexpected bonus of coming to realize even MORE of our flaws.  It is inevitable as we come closer to our Savior, as we strive to become more like Him, or to serve Him more, that we will begin to see, or perceive, more imperfections is ourselves.  This is not a cruel joke or a punishment, though at times you will feel the BURN!

Rather, this is the most beautiful part of the process.  It isn't a threat, it's a promise.  The Lord instructs us that as we begin to draw nearer to Him, we will naturally come to understand  how we might change to become even more and more like Him.  This is how he teaches us, how He cleanses us, how He heals us: line upon line, precept upon precept.  We needn't go any faster than we can, no faster than we have strength.  Just line upon line, here a little and there a little, until we are totally cleansed and totally healed through his infinite Grace.

This no longer seems overwhelming to me.  It now feels like the gift that it is.  This Christmas season, I am so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ; for His infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice for me.  And I appreciate the WAY that He teaches, cleanses and heals me.  It is always the perfect way, the perfect timing, and exactly the right language needed for me to understand, completely.

Next time you accidentally pour brown juice all over an unseen wound and get slapped in the face with a mighty burn, you can think of the hydrogen peroxide principle and be glad you did.

Merry Christmas, 2012!


  • "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Ether 12:27

  • "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

    Isaiah 1: 18


1 comment:

sara jensen said...

It's interesting that just as we are trying to make something in our life more beautiful (as you were your cupboards), we feel exposed to all our ugliest weaknesses. I am glad to be reminded that true strength can be found as we patiently work through our weaknesses knowing that through the atonement all can be made whole, healed and beautiful.
Thanks for sharing and the cabinets look awesome!!