Posted by B.W. Smith on Friday, 23 January 1998, at 5:35 p.m.
Cleaning Up Sticky Stuff
The total area of our kitchen floor is small; sweeping and washing takes all of maybe twenty minutes — so why do I always put it off? Usually, a little thing, a phone call, or a more pressing chore, or fatigue, draws me away from a simple task. Or, I expect the other person who spilled to take responsibility and clean up the mess. I give the vexing spatter a lick and a promise with a wet rag, or a paper towel until later. "Later" can become hours, and then finally, days until my feet stick to the floor. I can neither put it off, nor wait for someone else to do it. I cannot pretend any longer I don't see the obvious: my kitchen floor is filthy!
This little quirk in my housekeeping shows up in other corners of my life, with equally unpleasant consequences. Spiritual spills are as routine in my heart as drops of jelly, dribbles of coffee or splashes of tomato sauce are on my kitchen floor. I grouch at the kids, snap at my husband, or silently sulk because I did not get my way: plop, spatter, splash!
Instead of immediate contrition, sometimes I postpone confession and repentance in the same I avoid the mop and bucket. Putting off confession off with a "sorry, God," "sorry kids," or "sorry, dear," is bad spiritual housekeeping. It's the same as letting orange juice or milk stand on the kitchen floor for several days: unconfessed sin quickly gets gluey, offending more than just me. If I choose impenitence, I risk fouling another person's steps, causing him or her to stumble.
Spiritual spills are not always my fault. Sometimes I am the injured party. However, whether I have sinned, or have been sinned against, I must be willing to clean up spiritual spills. If I don't take immediate steps to clean the spiritual spills thoroughly, then those upsets of daily living accumulate. They corrupt my soul the same way that food and dirt stain my kitchen floor. Refusing to reconcile and forgive, generates grudges as surely as standing water on a floor can result in nasty falls. Why then, do I put off cleaning up spiritual messes — no matter who spilled?
In the same way I avoid hauling out the bucket and mop, my emotions -- how I feel -- hinder me from the spiritual scrubbing that I need. My feelings will distort what my priorities are, giving comfort to the lie that good works are more pressing than a good conscience. My conscience also contributes to my reluctance to seek God; my conscience condemns me, no matter whoever else has been sloppy! So, I let my emotions, other activities and responsibilities distract me from confession, prayer and mediation in the word of God. It's easier to get busy in another part of life than take the time to do what must be done.
Now, if God shows me that my sticky kitchen floor is a picture of my slapdash spiritual habits, He also shows me that my cleaning regime is a useful pattern for getting busy spiritually. Just like I get out the mop and bucket and get on my knees and scrub the floor, I also must get on my knees and ask God to cleanse me.
He promises to make my soul sparkle. (Psalm 19:9-11, 51:7) So, I can admit to God that I have become accustomed to living with a spattered, sticky soul just like I can choose to live with a nasty kitchen floor for several days. I can confess that by refusing to repent or forgive, I have played right into Satan's hands. (Ephesians 4:26) Now, the Lord forgives me and cleanses me, in less time than it takes me to think about washing my floor. (Psalm 51:10, Matt 8:2-3, 1 John 1:9)
How's your spiritual housekeeping? Is it time to get on your knees? Do you know what washes away the stain of sin? King David who was guilty of adultery, murder and failing to train his children cried out to God, who cleansed him, whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7) We must first ask God to cleanse us with the blood of His precious Son, and then come before Him so that He can create in us clean hearts, and renew a steadfast spirit within each of us. (Ps 51:10) Scripture teaches that no sin is bad that God cannot remedy. (Romans 8:31-39) He God is more than willing to cleanse us from our transgressions:
And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, you can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matt 8:2-3)
His cleansing is potent; we have confidence of its power and purpose from scripture.
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19-22)
Remember, also, this is war; we have an enemy. Scripture is also clear that careless spiritual habits play into our the enemy's strategy:
But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Cor 2:10-11)
Cleaning up sticky spiritual messes, whether we make them, or whether is done to us, is our assignment. God will take care of the big picture, if we do what He requires. We must practice what He promises to do for us:
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)
©Barbara Smith 1997