Getting Rid Of The Stains
I range from room to room, barking out orders like a drill sergeant. The owners of toys, games, books, clothes, and hair accessories are commanded to claim their items and put them in their rightful places. Then I assign dusting and sweeping duties while I wipe down mirrors, drag the vacuum up and down the stairs, and haul out sponges and spray bottles.
"Who's coming over?" asks my second son.
"What makes you think someone is coming over?" I respond a little testily.
A raised eyebrow is his only response.
Begrudgingly I have to admit that all of my children recognize the context that brings on my full-blown cleaning frenzies. Early in my marriage this behavior surfaced whenever we would have dinner or overnight guests, and especially when my in-laws were coming to stay. Now this particular brand of illogical behavior usually only surfaces when someone new is coming to the house.
After an hour or two, my panic subsides. I start to feel reasonably good about the state of my home, as the zero hour for company approaches.
Until I stand at a new angle or turn on a light. Suddenly missed carpet stains and window streaks come into full view. At some point I realize that I can't get it all clean before people arrive, but I continue to scrub and fuss until the doorbell rings.
Housecleaning hysteria may plague you at times, too. If so, you have also shoved a few things into closets or drawers they don't belong in, or even closed doors to entire rooms in the hope that the mess will escape your guests' view.
There is a reason for this madness. Actually there are two. The reason that sounds good is our commitment to hospitality, a desire to make company feel comfortable and valued. In my case, that is partly true. But for me, the deeper reason is that my housekeeping behavior doesn't match my housekeeping values.
What happens when we fail to live up to a standard we hold? We feel guilt and shame, and we try to hide. It's true for my housecleaning. It's also true for so much more.
Work performance. Parenting. Weight. Spending habits. Giving habits (or lack of them). The list of behaviors we can feel shame over is long. Some of the shame we carry stems from unrealistic cultural standards we try to live up to.
But we also feel guilt for valid reasons. If we dare look honestly within our hearts we find self-centeredness, anger, unkindness, greed, dishonesty and other unlovely things. We continually fail to live up to who we want to be, let alone to who God designed us to be. And despite our best efforts, we just can't cover up or clean up those ugly attitudes that lead to actions we regret.
Thankfully there is good news in all this.
This dilemma of ours is what the cross is all about. Jesus came to carry all of the not-enough and the truly shameful that we cannot deal with on our own. All that is required of us is to humbly bring it to him and ask for his forgiveness. There are two powerful outcomes of bringing our mess to Jesus.
We are set free, so we can experience love instead of shame.
"Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) As I write, I am reading this truth out loud and personalizing it. "There is no condemnation for Sue, who is in Christ Jesus." Why not speak this truth over yourself right now, and allow that grace to flood in and push out the guilt? If we have said yes to Jesus, those old sin stains are gone for good, and any new ones will be forgiven by him too!
We no longer struggle alone, as we try to maintain hearts and homes that honor God.
Jesus promised the disciples that "'the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.'" (John 14:26) Once we have come to Jesus for forgiveness, we have this Helper constantly with us. If we yield to his coaching, his power can go to work in us and through us. That gap between the beliefs we hold and the lives we live begins to shrink.
The Alleluias that ring out this Easter Sunday will celebrate God's great love that won the victory over shame. Yes, my home will probably feature "that lived-in look" for the foreseeable future, including telltale signs of some past spills. I am still coming to terms with that reality, but I take comfort in knowing that the clean-up job in my life that truly matters is permanently and perfectly done. The spotless Lamb of God washed away my sin. He did the same for each of us, declaring with his final words "it is finished"!