Why is it that the drive to vacation always seems shorter than the drive home? After a week at the beach, we packed the girls up and headed back towards Birmingham. What should have been 4 hours max turned into almost 7, and the chain of events in between could be described as a train wreck. We ended up having to stop twice to feed the girls, and attempting to feed two low- toned toddlers who are difficult to feed at best while parked at a gas station did not go so well. After having the car and ourselves basically covered in projectile vomit, we were over it. The car was already jam packed with bags, beach supplies, and baby paraphernalia; and now it (and us) were overcome with the scent of puke and fast food. I felt horrible for the girls, horrible for us, and made a mental note we were not going to drive that far with the girls ever again. Sounds dramatic, but if you were in the car, trust me, you would have wanted out.
We finally made it back to Birmingham, and after unpacking some and getting settled, the first thing we wanted to do was deep clean and de-clutter my car. Hugh went and got carpet cleaner, took everything out of the car, and vacuumed and scrubbed it from the inside out. When I went outside to see the damage, it was clear to me that the car was almost spotless. In fact, it was much cleaner than it had been before our vacation debacles. It occurred to me that a similar thing can happen in our hearts and souls whenever we walk through messy times.
I tend to focus on the lessons God is teaching us in the here and now because they are fresh; but rest assured the wrestling with God did not start a mere 17 months ago. No; this wrestling of faith has gone on for years. There have been numerous messy seasons in which the state of my being felt so dirty and covered in gunk that I was sure that I could never come out of it. But God.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside may also be clean”.- Matthew 23:25-26
Strong words from our Lord; but ever so true. You see, we are so quick to focus on appearances. We are so concerned with what others think of us that, often, we present a false cleanliness to those around us in hopes that we would look good. The problem with this is that the Lord sees the heart; He does not focus on appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Who cares how clean you can make the outside look if the inside, what truly matters, is filthy? People passing us on the highway might have thought they were passing a relatively clean car; but they could not have been more wrong.
So many seasons of life, while I might have appeared to have it together, my soul was hurting. If you had seen me from the inside out, I was a mess. This journey with our girls has been so refreshing because it has brought me to the end of myself. There has been no way I could cover up my weaknesses and pains to a watching world; and now, I would not want to do so. For in the midst of my sheer weakness and inabilities, I have seen a strong and mighty God pick up the pieces and make something all the more beautiful. He has been able to begin the process of cleaning me from the inside out, and I know that it took something devastating to bring me to this place. He has brought me out of hiding to a place in which I know I have an Audience of One; and that along with that, the One who watches my ever move is walking each step with me and loving me all the more. True peace. Here’s the thing: so many parts of this season have felt messier than ever before. I have had days in which I look at my vomit-covered heart and wonder how God could ever make something beautiful from it all. But, I have found that it is in the aftermath of those days that He reveals His goodness and His working to me all the more. In the midst of the mess of me, He is molding me from the inside out in order to make me more like Himself. He is picking up the rotten pieces of my flesh and my own doubtings and making all things new. Not because of who I am; but because of who He is. Sure, it feels chaotic and overwhelming at times; but my heart has begun to rest easy in His cleansing process, for I know that it is His best. Here’s the thing: as a Christian, we were ultimately made righteous and whole by His death for us on the cross. He sees me as white as snow; purified in His name. Let’s not confuse this with the sanctifying process that still goes on. From on eternal perspective, a Christian has already been made clean through the work of Christ. In the here and now, He is chipping away and scrubbing at the core of who we are; and He will continue to do so until the day we meet Him face to face. It will be then that there will be no more messes, no more junk… one with Him forever. How I long for this day for you and for me.
Friends, you are in this story. You are a mess. I mean that in the most loving way possible; but I want us all to see and find comfort in the fact that we are all in the same place in a sense. The inside of your cup might look different than mine; but it still desperately needs cleaning. This can only happen when we quit trying to paint our own version of a good picture and instead allow the Artist to do His work. No more strokes of false perfection; only His beautiful artistry in your heart and life. You do not have to hide your dirty. God already sees it, and He provided a way to escape it through His Son at the cross. Today, today, today…allow Him to bring that mess into the light. It will be messy; and it might feel as if things are getting worse and not better. Rest assured, however, that the more we place our stuff in the light, the more He is able to work the miracles that only He can do. His grace beyond measure. He is making beauty out of all of our filth. He is using the things we most despise to paint a glorious picture of His redemption. He can be trusted with all your junk. Give it to Him today and stand amazed at the One who will throw it as far as the east is from the west, look at your heart, see Jesus, and say, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” His banner over you is love (Song of Solomon 2:4).