Not Your Typical Church Lady
October 1, 2020
Yesterday we had a thorough fall cleaning at the church office. Things got washed that hadn't been washed in years. (The windows.) Things were found that I didn't even know we had. (A potpourri burner.) Things got thrown away, washed, scrubbed, vacuumed, bleached, dusted and swept. We even located the source of that strange armpit smell. (The plastic around the shower in the bathroom. There's nothing we can do about it, but at least we know it isn't any of us.)
It was the kind of work that most people don't look forward to. The jobs we did were not glamourous. It was not the kind of sensational ministry that makes the 6 o'clock news. It was just regular people helping each other to do a job that no one really wants to do, but that needs to be done. The results were stunning. I didn't really think it was that dirty. I'm there all the time and I suppose I had just grown used to it. Ignoring a mess is one of my detrimental superpowers.
Offices are not the only things that benefit from a good deep fall cleaning. What about our hearts? Monday, Sept. 28, was the Day of Atonement, and on Oct. 4, many will be observing World Communion Sunday. For both of these days repentance is required. It's a time of inner reflection, to really address the sins we've been ignoring in our lives all year. It is a time to ask others for forgiveness and to forgive others. It is a time to ask God to forgive us for the things we've done wrong, whether they be intentional or unintentional.
'Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and passionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity' (Joel 2:13, NIV).
A heart is like the spare room where all the junk gets thrown. No one ever looks in there so no one knows what a mess it is. But God knows. No one sees the painful things a person might have hidden in there. No one sees the feelings that get carried around: rage, guilt, jealousy, greed, lust, anger, hate, spite, the list goes on. We mask it on a day to day basis, smiling on the outside. But it's in there, lurking. We get used to it and after a bit we don't even think about it anymore. But did we ever really get rid of it?
If you think about it, our hearts should be our feature room. We should want it to be in such a condition that at any moment we could throw the door wide open and not be ashamed of what anyone sees when they peep in. Instead it's more like a house on an episode of 'Hoarders.' We are the person who clings to every little thing great and small, not willing to let it go. The mess is so overwhelming that we don't even know where to start. Luckily, we don't have to deal with this on our own. God is the ever- patient professional organizer who knows exactly how to handle us. If we are willing to trust him, he will take care of it for us. The job is too big for either you or I to be able to do and only the blood of Jesus Christ is going to wash that sin away. There is one little ingredient we often miss though – contrition.
Do we feel guilt or remorse for the sins hidden in our hearts? Are we truly repentant in spirit when we ask for forgiveness? Is there a brokenness in our spirit that throws us on our face before God asking for mercy and forgiveness?
'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules' (Matthew 15:8-9, NIV).
God knows our hearts, the good and the bad. He knows the level of sincerity in which we seek forgiveness. Of David the servant of the Lord in Psalm 36:
'An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good' (Psalm 36:1-3, NIV).
We can't just say the words 'Please forgive me.' We have to mean them as well. It's important to make time to be alone with God, to really talk to him in prayer. We must ask him to show us the areas of our lives that need cleaned up. We need to ask him to show us the things we've forgotten about that need taken care of. We need to thank him for his forgiveness and mercies and praise him. Let your soul sing with wonder and love. Accept the forgiveness. Let it wash over you. Then go and be likewise forgiving to others as well.
'Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another' (1 John 4:11, NIV).
That's going to be an area of focus in my heart cleansing this week, loving others as God has loved me. Writing this column does not mean I have it all under control. Don't think that for even one second. I control nothing. My flaws are vast and wide, and anyone close to me will laugh and vouch that its true. But the God I love and serve, HE's got it under control and that is my (and your) saving grace. For that, I am eternally grateful.