I’ve done it many times over the decades. Sometimes it works out just fine, saving me a small fortune in dry cleaning fees. But more often than not, the results have been immediate ruin – once-elegant pants reduced to high-waders, sweaters resized for a kindergartener, knits unblocked and misshapen, once-vibrant blouses faded and blotchy.
And then there was my polka-dot Liz Claiborne dress.
I found this dress at a designer discount store back in the day when Liz was high-priced high-fashion. It was a sleek, short-sleeved, cream-colored linen sheath with big black polka dots, and it was my go-to dress whenever I needed to look my tailored best.
Its only flaw was found inside, on the tag proclaiming “DRY CLEAN ONLY!” I couldn’t really afford it, but I loved this dress; and so dry clean it I did, year after expensive year, even as the cost outpaced both inflation and my earnings.
But one day, riding on my success in hand-washing a couple of dry-clean-only silk blouses, I decided that I’d had enough. Surely my polka-dot dress would thrive in careful hands, oh-so-gentle Woolite, and delicate air-drying on a padded hanger. Surely Liz Claiborne had inserted the alarming “DRY CLEAN ONLY!” warning only as a sop to a faithful fashion-industry colleague. Surely I could get away with breaking this one little rule; it really was too much to ask.
To cut to the chase: I was wrong. My good intentions and careful handling were useless: Every last polka dot bled into the surrounding cream, leaving ugly rivers of black and purple and red. And unlike the original dots, the rivers were apparently permanent; there was no scrubbing them clean.
The dress was, in short, ruined. And here I am, 25 years later, still mourning its loss.
I did learn one immediate lesson: when something of value is concerned, it’s best to heed its manufacturer’s instructions.
But I only recently realized that this lesson applies equally well to the big picture: If we value our lives, it’s always best to follow our Manufacturer’s care instructions, packaged in one handy volume called the Bible. Some say “Bible” is an acronym for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, with good reason: In its pages, God tells us all we really need to know in fewer words than it took Ayn Rand to define a relatively simple political philosophy.
Just as with a “dry clean only” tag, we ignore the Bible’s instructions at our own peril. They are the only way to true peace and joy even in the face of the worst calamities imaginable. In fact, this life isn’t meant to work apart from understanding and obeying its instructions.
Even more important, the Bible defines our eternities. It tells us how to be reconciled with our Creator forevermore, and warns us of the dire consequences of dying without having done so.
If you haven’t yet studied God’s care instructions for your life, now would be a very good time to dig in. The consequences of ignoring them are infinitely worse than ruining a favorite dress.