Red sandstone cliffs and clay dramatically set off the green fields and ocean blues of Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast. Sandy beaches on which to enjoy the dunes and sun and changing tides. Stunning beauty in every direction of wide open space.
When this province became home to us for a few years, our children could run and play with considerable freedom in the earthiness of country life. But it wasn’t long before I discovered that the attractive red soil of the landscape was less winsome in the ground-in stains on clothing, impossible to remove. Soles of socks took on a terra-cotta hue and the knees of pants immediately drew attention to the permanent patches of similar shades. But, we were all in the same boat and soon rarely noticed.
The ground-in dirt of dubious decisions made while running through the days of our lives similarly stains us with residual breaches of conscience resistant to cleansing. We become used to shades of red creeping under the surface of polite conversation. Darkened areas of the soul denoting unhealthy patterns of systemic response in both ourselves and the communities in which we live take on such familiar patterns that we come to view them as part of the natural fabric, as though they belong. Whether or not we pay attention to them, they are still there, their dullness detracting from the fullness of divine love shining through us in our dealings with each other and towards the world.
‘Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.’ (Psalm 51:7)
These grainy truths detected in inward journeys may run deep, set dry from long neglect. Faces may redden at their discovery, or consciences may deaden by trying to cover over them again, but there they are.
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ (Psalm 51:10)
It is David, crying out to God: the king of Israel, a leader of leaders. This faith-filled servant with a genuine heart inclined towards God and his ways allowed a blot to seep into his soul. His bed is covered with Bathsheba’s scent while her husband is sent to his death and there is no way to go back to the way things were before. It becomes a secret, secreting selective self-disclosure before God, others and the self, and affecting him at unrecognized levels until Nathan gently points it out and he is released from its hold through the act of confession. (2 Samuel 12)
We are all stained. Claiming our constant need of grace with humility together is a mutual gift which frees us from striving to save face and to simply come clean before him so he can cleanse us fully and revitalize our approach to the relationships around us … but so often, like David, we first try to hide.
Weary wandering servant afraid to own what must be owned for wholeness in yourself or within the groups you lead, may I encourage you to let the walls of self protection tumble down in the presence of this loving God so all can meet the smile of his forgiving power poured out at the cross and be renewed.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him (or her) who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)
He waits to bleach the fabric of our souls where stains lie hidden under sheets of lies. No compromise to truth, but therein lies the prize … “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
Christ holds out soapy waters to soften encrusted consciences, scrape away calloused disregard for concealed ways in which we miss the mark of his glory, and launder all that is less than pure love in the purity of his righteousness, lathered on us through faith. He freshens the world with the freshness of his glorious love for all who will hold up to him their soul’s true reflection of where their feet have taken them and be made white like new.
Come. Slip off the shoes of inner shame in which you hide and be washed in his love.
‘Lord, what a lovely fragrance, the aroma of grace showering our stains and making us white as snow. What love to bear our shame so we can be made new.
Help us soak in waters of your word and Spirit throughout this lenten season. Loosen any lingering willingness to turn a blind eye to that within ourselves which has caused our need for your love to have risen up and offered a perfect sacrifice on our behalf to make us whole again. Lift away the blemishes which mark each selfish pride-filled way we engage with others in this world … and may our feet become that much more ready to run with the good news of your gospel to make visible its penetrating affects on the soul and society at large as your salvation is lived out in every sphere of life. Amen.’