This, I'm ashamed to say, is what my kitchen looked like yesterday morning.
The remains of breakfast (and other dishes) on the table...
A sink filled to overflowing...
Dirty dishes and pans all over the counter and stove.
Facing that was a bit daunting. It was a big mess in my little kitchen. But I got started and soon it didn't seem so bad. Doing dishes isn't really fun, of course, unless you're one of those rare people who thinks so. The end results are great: a clean kitchen and clean dishes. But sometimes to get there it takes work, elbow grease...
and smelly Bar Keeper's Friend. I don't know what I'd do without it, but the smell is nasty.
But getting a pot sparkling clean isn't always pleasant. Getting rid of yuck usually isn't fun.
I realize I'm being a bit cryptic here. What does a messy kitchen have to do with anything (other than reminding you that I can sometimes be lazy and messy)?
Well, as I was working, I realized how much I'm like that dirty kitchen sometimes. I let yucky stuff pile up in my life till it's absolutely overwhelming. It's such a daunting task I just let it be, ignore it, hope it'll go away on its own--but it doesn't.
That's when I realize how much I need God. I can't clean up my life on my own. I can't obey him of my own will. My own will is selfish and sinful and doesn't want to do what's right. That results in a messy kitchen and a messed-up life.
God has to come into my life and say, "All right, you have a big mess here, but it's nothing I can't handle. No mess is too big for My hands. It's not going to be fun. It might hurt. It might be nasty. It might take a while. And you might not enjoy the process. But trust Me--it'll be worth it."
God does it right. He doesn't just do a quick wipe-down of my life, making it look clean, and call it done. He knows the real problem isn't outward appearances, but what's on the inside. Outwardly, this bowl looks clean.
On the inside, it's a sticky, smelly, grody mess. It needs serious work.
In the book of 1 Samuel, God gave the prophet Samuel the job of finding the man God had chosen to be king of Israel. Samuel went to the house of Jesse and looked at all of Jesse's sons. Samuel thought they all looked big, strong, and ready to be king. But God wanted David, the youngest and smallest son. God told Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
God, in his mercy, doesn't just clean me up on the outside. He tackles the problem of my sin at its very root: my heart. In Psalm 51, David cried out to God after David had committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David prayed, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Psalm 51:10-12).
When we realize our sin and cry out to God in repentance, this is exactly what he does. He makes us right with him and gives us a fresh start.
Unfortunately, as humans we continue to sin, every day. My kitchen didn't stay clean for long. In just a few hours, I did more cooking and it got messy again. But God is patient. He doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves. He knows we can't clean up our lives on our own. A dirty dish has no power of its own, it can't want to be clean, let alone clean itself. By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we have a desire to obey God, to love him, and to serve him. He gives us the strength to obey him, and he forgives us when we fail. Paul wrote to the Ephesians,
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
I am a constant work in progress. God my Creator knows that. He's willing to keep working on me.
(Oh, and by the way, my kitchen did get clean!)
Linking up, one year later, 7/27/2012