Like fondant. Literally, icing on the cake; but for me, it was the main event when I made my bed in the morning. The gold standard of a perfectly smoothened cover, just the way rolled sugar hugged the curves of a confection.
As a child, I was obsessive in my pursuit of order. Over the years, I loosened up and this compulsion also relaxed. So much so that I swung to the other end of rambling Black Forests, where no pristine fondant existed. So began my ongoing battle with clutter, one that more often than not, I had allowed to overwhelm and overcome me.
Flash forward to Easter this year, where I had a strange case of the chicken pox, though milder the second time around. It was a call back to childhood summers of past, but with the addition of a research report to be done, a side of dust mites and a mountain of laundry. I took the opportunity to finally work on this unattended business. Forgetting Marie Kondo and her many steps to tidiness, I was determined to start somewhere, anywhere.
In that period of isolation, not only did my clutter face me, but so did my own long-held, daily struggle with sinful patterns. Things that had been ‘dealt with’ previously, but in a state of complacency, returned with renewed intensity.
Stripping away a contaminated bed of its covers, I confronted the lust of the flesh, the pride of the mind. One thought after the other plagued me. There it was, the folly of my ways—how I had grown a little too comfortable with the filth, and just how much I needed this shake-up and wake-up call.
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I found myself reflecting on chapter 6 of Isaiah, aptly called “The Cleansing Before the Call” in the NLT version. There, in Isaiah’s transformation from conversion to calling, God’s word was clear on what it means to come before Him with all humility and receive His grace anew.
1 / Clarity and conversion
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” (Is 6:1)
Only in putting to death the idols I held up on a pedestal, could I see God for who He is. This is the holy reverence we are moved to when the Holy Spirit begins its transformational work in us.
2 / Confession
“And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Is 6:5)
Next came an admission of my sin and weakness. There is that one big struggle, the ‘sin that so easily trips us up’ (Hebrews 12:1)–be it lust, sloth, anger, unforgiveness, addictions. It was through the Holy Spirit’s conviction that I could humbly acknowledge my sin, come repentant before God, and become empowered by His grace to overcome the weakness of the flesh.
3 / Cleansing
“And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Is 6:7)
An angel of God, a seraph, touched Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal. And in that moment of forgiveness begins the work of sanctification. In repeated patterns of cleansing and growth, I experienced a discomfort, for ‘no discipline is enjoyable’ as it happens! But what is promised is ‘a peaceful harvest of right living’ for those who submit themselves to the process (Hebrews 12:11).
4 / Calling
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Is 6:8)
Christianity does not stop at the cleansing. It is not merely self-improvement, for there is only so much I can will myself to change. It is a transformative walk with Christ towards the ultimate call to become more and more like Him, as we draw others to Him. I am saved—we are all saved—for the work God calls us to do.
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“As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.” (Romans 6:20-21, The Message)
Sy Rogers put it so well. The way we bathe and cleanse our bodies daily is precisely what we need to do on a spiritual level everyday. There is a temporary tidying that remains superficial, one where I can straighten out the bed covers for appearances but stuff my closet with mountains of unsorted laundry. Yet there remains a true cleansing that goes to the root and the heart of things, and frees us from that dead end of our human effort.
On our own, in a world so corrupted, we can’t keep permanently clean. It is only by the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed and made right with God. And it is only in treasuring this Truth daily that we find discomfort in sin, denounce its empty pleasures, and delight to follow His commands.
For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
(Romans 6: 22, ESV)
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Lord, I do not want to take the cleansing and spiritual discipline for granted, nor do I want it to hold me back from what You have called me to do. As I rise and fall with the ebb and flow, make me into the person You call me to be, deal with my character, shape me and mould me.
Purify my heart, Lord, so that I would do only what pleases You. Far too long, I have heard and yet do not truly hear. May the Holy Spirit open the eyes of my heart to see You in all Your glory, as the One true God. And may I see my sin for what it truly is, how it breaks Your heart and separates me from You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.