Ever sat in your mess for so long that it just became normal? Then, when you found out that you had company coming over unexpectedly your “okay” home was suddenly seen for what it was: a disaster!
Most of us try to keep our homes from getting to a crisis point. We do dishes, sweep the floors, and take the trash out on a (slightly more than) as-needed-basis. Our homes may not be spotless, but they’re comfortable when we keep up with our to-do lists.
Our hearts are the same way.
We go through our days accumulating “stuff” in our hearts. Our feelings, thoughts, memories, attitudes, and so on build up. The stuff of this world and of our flesh isn’t neat, tidy, or glamorous. It’s not too hard for our hearts to get messy.
Our hearts get loaded up with a lot of stuff that we even need to have for a short time. Feelings like anger or doubt are natural and have a purpose. Bad attitudes often develop in reaction to circumstances that we have to face. Our harsh thoughts and feelings of bitterness can help us to be discerning.
That doesn’t mean that all the gunk in our hearts is right. It also doesn’t mean that the stuff we’re supposed to let the necessary stuff sit and stew after it has run its course.
Take, for example, the Bible’s commands concerning anger. “Be angry and do not sin.” It’s not wrong to be angry –God gets mad. But, at what point is our anger sinful? When it accumulates in our hearts to overthrow other commandments, like wishing evil on people or taking revenge, our anger has begun to rot. “Leave room for God’s wrath” we read.
For there to be room in our hearts for the Lord’s wrath (or the Lord’s hope, patience, or compassion) we have to do the work of cleaning heart.
Like our homes, we have to be aware of what comes in (can you say no muddy shoes?!) as well as what we do with what we have going on in there. Scripture outlines the way to sort out what's inside:
1. Acknowledge the Mess
Cleaning with your eyes closed doesn’t go so well. Neither does cleaning in the dark. It may be difficult to face what’s in your heart, but you need to. “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible--and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
2. Repent of What’s Gone Bad
What happens in your heart may or may not trickle out before you get to cleaning house. Either way, the Lord sees it. A sin in the heart is still a sin. Get rid of it, surrender it to the Lord in repentance.
As Acts 3:19 puts it: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Out with the junk, make room for His refreshing.
3. Get Washed
And then go further than choosing to “remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes.” “Put on the shining armor of right living.” Get clean and live accordingly. There is no need to wait, to dwell on the dirt, or to mourn the gunk that’s been removed: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”
That’s it. Praise the Lord that He is the One who “creates in us a clean heart.”
Isn’t that amazing? Our Lord goes before us to make us able to be confident before God (despite all the junk in our hearts.) The Holy Spirit lives in us, making room in these dusty, dirty hearts.
We are free to live comfortably, knowing our hope is in Him even when our hearts are downright disgusting. And we’re free to be washed –inside out- anytime, anywhere.