Better than Mr. Clean

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For several summers I have cleaned a 5 bedroom lake house that is rented by the week for families to vacation together.  Each Saturday I’m scheduled, the owners and myself have five hours to launder linens, change bedding, dust furniture, wash windows, clean bathrooms, maintain the lawncare and so much more.  Each Saturday we take a well vacationed home and turn it into a brand new adventure for the next arrival.  It’s amazing what we can do in the limited time when we roll up our sleeves and determine to make it shine for the new renters.

Yesterday was no exception.  As I headed upstairs preparing to clean four out of the five bedrooms,  I turned on Pandora.  Music always helps me work more diligently.  Perhaps I learned that from the Seven Dwarfs-they did love to “whistle while they worked” didn’t they? Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful Beautiful” was just starting.  The song opens with these lyrics:

“Don’t know how it is you looked at me

“and saw the person that I could be…”

After the first verse, she bellows these lyrics in the chorus:

“Like sunlight burning at midnight,

“making my life something so beautiful, beautiful…”

This is one of my favorite songs that depict a beautiful image of redemption.  As I listened I couldn’t help but compare the work I do as a cleaning lady (job number 3 that I work) to how Jesus cleans up our lives.  I spend my Saturdays cleaning up somebody else’s mess in preparation for someone else to come in and mess it up again.  Jesus gave up His very life to clean up our messes knowing we would mess up again.

As a cleaning lady, I’ve faced my share of dirt and stains that were difficult to remove.  Some in fact I couldn’t get out at all.  I’ve seen bedding and walls colored on, stoves covered in thick grease, etc.  In fact, the kitchen counter of the house I clean had a stain on it that seemed impossible to remove and had been there for a few years.  One day I bought a new organic cleaner and asked the owners if I could try it out on that stain.  With their approval, I sprayed the cleaner on the stain and let it sit for a few seconds.  Scrubbed a little and wiped it away.  It wasn’t removed but it had become a little lighter.  So, I sprayed again and let the cleaning solution sit longer.  Scrubbed and wiped again to find it was almost completely gone.  The third time was the charm and the stain was completely gone.

Like the organic cleaner’s ability to remove that impossible countertop stain, Jesus can remove every single sin stain our lives display.  Did you not save your virtue for marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Were you unfaithful to your marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you lie and cheat your way to success?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you catfish someone or many others?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you addicted to sex, drugs and/or alcohol?  Jesus can wipe those sins away too.  Do you struggle with anger, rage and unforgiveness?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you a womanizer or a man-hater? Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Have you attempted to fill voids with toxic relationships, loveless sex or other self destructive behaviors?  Are you addicted to pornography?  Jesus can wipe it all away.  No matter the mistakes you’ve made, the mistakes you continue to make or the mistakes you will make, Jesus’ death wiped every sin away.

You are not the stains of your mistakes. Our enemy uses our mistakes to keep us locked up in sin, despair and drudgery.  We beat ourselves up for repeating the past.  We continue to chase after dead end relationships, we argue with the toxic person in our lives and we harbor unforgiveness toward those who’ve hurt us.  We can even fall into the trap of not praying for our enemies.  We can’t enjoy the life Jesus wants for us because we can’t see past our stains.  We buy into the lies of our enemy and choose to remain stained.  We live rejected and therefore reject the love of others because we believe we are too damaged to ever be loved again.  We live like a garment so muddied it’s not even worth donating to Goodwill and ultimately ends up in the trash.

Just like cleaning that seasonal summer home takes time to clean so it goes with Jesus’ cleansing for us.  There’s no magic wand waved, there are no fingers snapped and poof we are magically cleaned.  It took three times of spraying cleaner on that countertop to completely remove the stain.  Jesus’ cleansing is a similar three-step process and it begins with confession.  1 John 1:9 states it perfectly: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  If we want to stop living like stained rejects and damaged goods, we have to be honest with Jesus and ourselves.  We have to admit our mistakes, confess how we’ve been living and confess the mindset we’ve been living in.  Very similar to an alcoholic beginning their road to sobriety by admitting they are addicted to alcohol.

The second step is forgiveness.  We have to seek His forgiveness, possibly seek others’ forgiveness, forgive ourselves and forgive those who have hurt us.  That too is not something that happens overnight or instantaneously.  Forgiveness is a lifetime practice of choosing to acknowledge the wound, let go of it and allow Jesus to heal it. Forgiveness is also about trusting Jesus to vindicate us rather than seeking out our own revenge.  I have always been one who is quick to defend myself.  One of the hardest verses I’ve had to learn to stand on is Exodus 14:14-trusting God to fight for me and choosing instead to just be still.  Forgiveness is like being on the battlefield with arrows pointed at you and choosing to stand still, unarmed, trusting that God is avenging you. No matter how badly you want to throw an arrow back, you instead, choose to lay it down.

The final step in Jesus’ cleansing process is healing.  If we want to be made clean, we have to let Jesus heal us.  That can be the most painful part of the process.  If you’re like me, you’ve let your mistakes define you to the point that it’s become your identity.  When you look in the mirror all you can see is brokenness looking back at you.  People continue to build you up but you just throw their building blocks back at them.  Being broken has become your comfort zone and being healed just feels like an open door to get hurt all over again.  But God did not make us to be a broken people.  We are His light to the world.  A broken light bulb cannot shine into others’ darkness.  It can only exude more darkness.  If you’re living in brokenness, you know too well how dark and lonely that kind of living truly is.  We attract what we are.  If we are living as damaged goods, we will attract the same mind set which only seeks us deeper into despair.  When we walk in His healing, instead of attracting more brokenness, we can become His tool in healing others.

To become His light, we have to open the wounds and allow Jesus to scrub away the stains.  Depending on how stubbornly we hold on to any specific stain will determine how uncomfortable and lengthy the process can be.  If you’ve made brokenness your comfort zone it’s going to feel like jumping off a high platform into an unknown abyss when you finally choose to let Jesus heal you.  But when you do, your light will shine again, you will be a lighthouse to someone else’s darkness and you will see Jesus as the Mr. Clean who washed you white as snow! Confess your sins, forgive yourself and others.  Close your eyes and metaphorically jump into His healing.  When you open your eyes and look into the mirror again, you will see the man or woman Jesus truly made you to be!

Advertisements

Nautical Naughtiness

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

2 Peter 3:17

In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day.  It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks.  Everywhere you look American flags and  red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people.  It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.

In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration.  It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children.  We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show.  There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park.  There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.

This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach.  The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies.  Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in.  This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water.  After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe.  As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore.  After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.

As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived.  This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three.  Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming.  In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day.  That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.

Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake.  Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger.  His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop.  He did not listen.  She called again and he continued walking into the water.  Another adult family member headed to the water to get him.  My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him.  My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen.  Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.

Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore.  He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face.  As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown.  He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.”  As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic.  All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.

As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation.  It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown.  It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc.  It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.

There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water.  There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct.  With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed.  Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them.  Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders.  That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.

No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences.  When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret.  Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret.  Yes we will make mistakes.  Some may even forever change us.  But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us.  We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.

God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes.  He is our foghorn when we face temptation.  He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters.  He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost.  He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too.  If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you.  All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him.  If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven.  If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter.  Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.

No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for.  Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way.   I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!