Once More Into The Bleach

What? I can only have one bottle of thick bleach? No, I’m not stockpiling anything! I just want to do the job that I always do at this time of year: that is, cleaning up at the front of the house. I had six bottles in the cellar, and five of them have gone on the backyard, so I need three more to treat the stone flags and the low wall at the front. The girl at the till shakes her head, and puts two bottles to one side, well out of my reach, as though I’m about to snatch them back and make a break for the door. 

Later in the day, I look around the cellar, seeking inspiration. Here it is, in this chest of drawers, amongst the gardening gloves, weedkiller, and assorted chemicals: a bag of soda crystals, a.k.a. sodium carbonate decahydrate. It kills off moss and algae, it says, so it might be worth trying. 

One bag stirred into hot water gives me enough to fill the watering can four times over, which is enough for the flags, anyway. The wall can wait. But will it work?

I step outside a day or two later and take a look. Well, it has worked - but only after a fashion. The blackened and dead mould is still firmly in place, along with the ingrained dirt of the long, wet winter. It would take hours of scrubbing to remove it, and I have other tasks to occupy me at the moment.

And then it’s Monday, and at nine o’clock in the morning the supermarket shelves are full and the previous week’s restrictions have been lifted, and so: once more into the bleach, dear friends...*

If you want to try it yourself, put on wellingtons and waterproof gloves and old clothes, and take great care: you really don’t want bleach on your skin or anywhere near your eyes. If you’re a careless person or useless at D.I.Y., don’t even think about it. 

That said, the results from a mixture of two thirds water and one third thick bleach (stirred thoroughly and applied judiciously) are excellent. Here you can see it as it gets to work on the flags.

A day later, and the flags look fine on this fair morning in spring. Hang on - do I see some stubborn stains on the mortar in the flagstone joints? Yes, here and there! No problem: a stiff brush and a bucket of soapy water, and it’s all gone in a matter of minutes. 

And the end result is as you see below, and we can once more admire the texture of the stone, its warm tones, and the intriguing fossil ferns set therein. 

There is only one snag, of course: some months from now, even if we get a good summer, it will all need cleaning again; and then, when winter is over, again; and then… Well, you get the idea, and I’m sure you’re ahead of me… Nevertheless - wonderfully for us, in the spiritual realm, complete cleansing from all our sin and filth is available, for now and for all eternity.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is far better than the Levitical sacrifices, because His sacrifice did what those sacrifices could never do - it made forgiveness of sins possible, once and for all, with a sacrifice that is never to be repeated. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10.12-14)

The hymn writer Robert Lowry asks the question that all men need to ask, and gives us the one and only answer.

What can wash away my stain?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Yes, I know that we need to keep short accounts with God, and we will fail and fall many times as the days go by; but John reminds us that “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.7-9) And in Revelation 1.5-6, he says: “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

I like these lines from Psalm 103.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103.10-12)

That’s good, isn’t it? I commend the Psalm as a whole to your attention, especially in times like these. 

P.S. *Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1, of course - but it’s also (as modified above) the title of a Blondie remix album from 1988, and the touring name of Blondie tribute band “Into The Bleach”.

P.P.S. Meanwhile, beneath the beech hedge, still brown with last year’s leaves, the lily of the valley unfurls its delicate green leaves, and tiny buds begin to form.