Saturday, October 31, 2015

DO. NOT. GET DIRTY!

If you were born before 1980, chances are sometime before the age of eight you were poured into a pair of ridiculously stiff, scratchy, lacy tights, or garroted by a torturous element of fashion called a bowtie. Once properly checked and in check, you were given the directive: "DO. NOT. Get dirty." And by "get dirty", what was meant was muddy, dusty, rumpled, wrinkled, smudged, undressed, stained, or otherwise altered from your present state of discomfort. If you were sitting, you stayed seated until you had bed sores. If you were standing, you stood until your legs swelled and varicose veins formed. But, you DID NOT "get dirty." It is my understanding there was an island of exile for children who chose to ignore this command. I never had the guts to personally validate this; the fear of reprisal was quite enough.

I grew up thinking that being a Christian was a lot like being etched into submission by lacy tights, or threatened into obedience by a mother very close to the edge. Jesus would die on a cross for me, clean me all up, and I would just get dirty again. I'd let Him down. It was an endless cycle: collapsing in repentance and surrender, bathing in a pool of cleansing blood, putting on my new duds, and mucking it all up before breakfast. Nothing He could do could keep me from Parental wrath and the isle of exile. Eventually I gave up trying.

But "no longer trying" was just how God wanted me to be. He never intended me to try to stay clean. In fact, throughout His ministry, Jesus had compassion on the worst of sinners, but for those pretending, those trying to justify themselves? He hid the meaning of His life-saving words from them. He knew their hearts, and knew they were so busy being their own god and observing their own religion, they refused to see their need for relationship with Him. The minute I stopped trying, I came face to face with the consequences of my decisions; He opened my eyes to the Goodness that only He is; He dealt with me, not the spit-shined, dolled-up image of me I had manufactured; He put the horse right back in front of that cart, and changed my heart. The willingness to strip off my tights and scuff up my shoes a bit -- even in front of my friends in the church -- brought me to a place where Jesus could fix me for good. Sure, He'd cleaned things up a long time ago, but as long as I wanted to tell Him what to do with it and how to do it, He'd never been able to change me from the inside. Tip-toeing lightly and not getting wrinkled might make for great appearances, but gets very little done in the Kingdom. The last thing God wants is a wax museum of cleaned up, rank and file Christians sitting lifeless, trying not to get dirty.

And the best part is that freedom has given me the desire to want to stay clean. God's Spirit -- if I allow -- works in me, changing me, even taking over sometimes, so that as I go about my day praying, reading God's Word, seeking His direction and His will, looking for openings to serve and  worship Him, being yielded to what He is doing, I find myself "staying clean" without even trying.

I won't be squeezing into scratchy tights anytime soon. I'm not even sure I'll stay clean until Sunday.  But I really want to, and I know I no longer have to try.

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