A good friend of mine makes soap. Nice soap. All natural soap. She also makes candles, but this is about her soap, not her candles. Occasionally, I receive one of her bars as a gift. Sometimes they are small rectangles, other times they are large squares. Sometimes they feel smooth, other times they feel gritty. Sometimes they smell minty, other times they smell flowery. Whatever the fragrance, they waft delicious. Recently, she gave me two thick square chunks neatly wrapped with her Goddess of Gift Baskets label tucked under cellophane. Their scent was luscious. Immediately, I unwrapped one of them and put it on the shower shelf. Its perfume filled up the entire room. Ahhh! . . . Elysian!
That bar became a square of delight for fifteen minutes out of every day. Its creamy foaminess cleansed my hair, my face, my hands and fingers, my feet and toes. Its rich smoothness washed away fatigue, road dirt, and garden grime. Its soft butteriness oiled my wrinkled skin and revived my tired cells. I relished its silky surface. I savored its lustrous suds. I ingested its sweet ambrosia. One day my hands overflowed with luxuriant bubbles when a curious thought entered my mind. What would it be like to taste this richness? How would it feel on my tongue? And then, I did what no child who ever used a foul, four-lettered word in the fifties would ever do. I licked the rounded corner of the soap.
Yep, that is exactly what I did. I gently tested the corner. It was creamy and soft, but I didn’t taste anything. Neutral, rather bland actually. No flavor that I could detect. Okay, I thought. I need a bigger taste, so I ran my tongue along the wide, flat side of the square and then closed my mouth. I swished my tongue a bit to find the flavor. There was that bland, creamy softness again. But then I noticed that the butteriness was beginning to expand into tiny bubbles. It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t feel right. So I put my face under the shower nozzle and allowed the water to pour into my mouth. The tiny bubbles exploded into bigger ones which seemed to take far too long to be rinsed out completely. Then came the aftertaste.
A perfumery has the power to be aromatic therapy, but not when it fills the confines of the mouth cavity. The soap aroma stuck to my tongue like paste and no amount of water could unstick it. I stood in the shower while my mouth opened and closed and my tongue wagged in and out. I was reminded of my old gray cat. When he smells something distasteful, he walks around with his mouth open, his tongue partially hanging out, and his upper and lower lips drawn back. I think he is using air circulation to defumigate his senses. That is what I was trying to do: defumigate my mouth. The lovely bar of soap had become too much of a good thing.
I got carried away with its “goodness.” Its goodness revived me and cleansed me, but its goodness was not meant for my mouth. I needed to place boundaries on that good thing. I needed to say, “You, good soap, may come this far and no more.” I am still learning. I can easily be over run by “good” things. This happens to me in my relationship with God. He restores me and washes me. “Good” bubbles up and out and gives me energy and life—life that is fragrant and buttery smooth. I get greedy. I want more of the same. I want sweeter, creamier, softer. I want to taste all of the goodness at once. I am not satisfied with what is. My focus becomes foamy, and I lose myself in the desire for more. I forget the Source of my soul suds. Reveling in perfumed things, I forget the Perfumer.
When this happens, I am in danger of the fumigated aftertaste. The Soap Maker knows the boundaries and has them in place. When I ignore them or overlook them, I risk a distasteful experience and the need to get some soul air. My aromatic God knows the right amount of fragrance for any one person. I need to trust that. I need to trust that I will receive the right amount of living bubbles from the One Who Suds my soul. I need to trust that I will receive the right amount of creaminess from the One Who Smoothes my spirit. I need to trust that I will receive the right amount of silkiness from the One Who Softens my soul. This is soapy living. I want to allow the Soap Maker to dispense the perfumed foam into my soul so that I don’t end up with an unpleasant aftertaste.