The Lord works out everything to its proper end…(Proverbs 16:4, NIV)
So, it happened. I went to the store like a normal person to do my normal grocery shopping. Toilet paper was on the list. I had not run out in a panic to stockpile it when I heard supplies were getting low, but now it was time. I hoped that out here in a rural area that has no virus exposure yet that maybe people wouldn’t be emptying the shelves. Or maybe there might have been one-pack-per-customer limit to stem the tide. But the toilet paper shelves were empty. As were the paper towel and napkin shelves, which were apparently considered suitable substitutes. It was a little disappointing to see the results of a make-sure-I-get-mine attitude. But more than that, it made me reflect once again about the way that we define needs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to buy some toilet paper and continue to be respectful of following the culturally-accepted norm for bathroom hygiene. And yet, it’s funny to think that this norm doesn’t reach back very far into our history, and is actually more of a product of cheap and convenient paper products at the expense of our forests and environment than any real improvement in sanitation.
I’ve grown up using t.p. my whole life. But you know, my dad didn’t. I mean, it wasn’t even my grandfather. My dad, only one generation ago, in the 1940s and 1950s, grew up on a farm in the country, and they had an outhouse. The toilet paper that was stocked in the outhouse consisted of whatever newspapers and catalogs the family was done with. And if you opted out of the outhouse because it was a nice warm day, and found yourself a quiet spot in the woods, the toilet paper consisted of whatever leaves of the forest that you chose as your personal favorites due to availability and the right proportion of sturdiness and softness. And it was no big deal and there was no rampant spread of disease, because people still did sensible things like wash their hands and faces and clothes with soap and clean water.
More than anything, the inconvenience of being unable to buy toilet paper every time there is a panic over a storm or an economic downturn or this unprecedented pandemic shutdown just makes me want to check out of the whole crazy cycle of dependence upon an industry that cranks out tiny paper squares that we pay money for and flush down the toilet. Every. Single. Day.
And it makes me want to calmly remember that when I can’t buy toilet paper, it wasn’t really a need at all. It was a convenience and even a luxury; it was something that I did to be respectful of the ways of a society that would be exceedingly offended without it; but there are other ways. God’s word will truly continue to sustain and guide me even in a whole world without toilet paper. As it did in the days of my ancestors.
And then I was also reminded not to think too harshly of those who picked up an extra pack of toilet paper, or even an extra cartful, when faced with these troubling times. People are scared. And if a stockpile of t.p. can bring a little ease to someone’s mind, I can cheerfully forego my own toilet paper desires. And I can pray that people will turn in greater numbers than ever to the only One True Comfort in this life – the Lord our God.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.(John 16:33, KJV)
by Sydney Michalski