Monday, August 3, 2009

Grace: God's Stain Remover

Have you ever noticed how a stain often gets worse the more you try and clean it? Sometimes it smears, gets ground in, or become even uglier the more you try to clean it up. Even if you can manage to eradicate it, sometimes remnants still remain. You can still see the faint hues of a pasta sauce stain on a white shirt or a red juice spot on the carpet. The mistake lingers in that faint reminder; never fully erased.

I was having some quiet time; trying to pray and have time with the Lord. That’s when I noticed just how “quiet” things really were. It was then that I noticed the lid of Gianna’s plastic vanity seat in the bathroom and it had something all over it. At first, I thought it was Gianna’s hair and that she had found a way to give herself a trim. She was standing on the potty (hair intact) with a wad of toilet paper in her hand. She had colored all over her vanity seat with a black crayon and when she realized how permanent the marks were, she tried to clean it off with toilet paper (and it obviously didn’t work).

I was rather upset. Regrettably, I yelled at her (in fact, quite a bit today). This isn’t the first time she has destroyed something in some way or another (whether it be her own stuff or ours). Though, any other time, I have been able to get marks off the walls or washed off whatever she used to paint her body with (or just lived with the scribbles on some of my books). This time, however, it didn’t come off very well (it’s a little textured, so it was harder to clean). I managed to get most of the crayon marks off with some steel wool, but it is still stained. Unless I can find a better way to clean it, it will never be the way it was; perfectly pink and white. Same thing with all her underwear because even as I was typing this, she decided to poop her pants today! Also, during snack time, she spilled her food on the floor and stained the wall and tablecloth. So, naturally, I am at my “accident” limit today. I am very frustrated because whether they were purposeful or on accident, I am just fed up with the messes! Why does she do this?! Won’t she ever learn?!

It was in these examples, however, that I learned something myself. I was reminded of how years ago, one of our pastors had showed us the same lesson. He had a piece of paper on stage that looked like a thermometer with some black ink representing the sin in our lives bubbling up in that thermometer. He showed us how trying to clean it off ourselves smears it. We can’t purify ourselves. Only the blood of Christ can make us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). He removes the blackness and makes us completely clean and new by giving us a brand new heart (Psalm 51:10, Ezekiel 11:19). We aren‘t just a cleaned up old version of ourselves. We have been made brand new (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Praise God! Only Christ can do that! We cannot hide, clean up, or remove our own filth. When we do, it only makes it worse. We end up staining ourselves even more and leaving ourselves with more remnants of what our sins have done. This is why we NEED Christ! Only through Him are our stains removed and we are made new!

I know that like Gianna, we don’t always learn our lessons. Sometimes we make the same mistakes over and over again. Even after suffering the punishment and consequences of our actions we still return to our vomit (Proverbs 26:11, 2 Peter 2:22). Gianna has been punished, talked to, and I have taken her seat away from her (and told her she wouldn’t be coloring for a long time) and she has been sent to her room for a nap (she looks like a sweet, innocent, sleeping angel now lol). I forgive her; even knowing that she may possibly do it again someday. I still love her no matter what she does. I also asked her to forgive me for yelling at her and she very sweetly said she did. I don’t want to be angry at her and I want to be as forgiving and gracious to her as the Lord is to me.

In all of this I am all the more aware and amazed at God’s love, forgiveness, and patience! We all behave just as badly as children. We sin against our perfect Father in heaven and we don’t always learn from our mistakes. However, he loves us anyways and forgives us for our misdeeds. He even lovingly disciplines us and/or allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions so that we might repent and do better next time (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6). He also removes our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more (Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17). That is beyond gracious! He’s far greater than any of us because who among us can always completely forget even if we learn to forgive? He is so AMAZING!

As frustrated as I have been with all of Gianna’s blunders today, it has also been a strange comfort to me. It was the teachable moment that I needed in order to better receive God’s grace for myself. That’s because yesterday, I really blew it with my eating. I have learned so much from “The Lord’s Table” course (and yesterday’s lesson was even about being vigilant and on guard) and yet I STILL screwed up!! Even as aware and determined as I was to be disciplined in my eating, I still strayed. I feel all the worse because I was aware (and even expected) that I would be faced with some difficult food choices yesterday and I STILL blew it - even after all the reading, praying, and spent time listening to/singing my favorite worship songs to God. It’s frustrating, upsetting, and shameful. Today, the scale reflected a 1.2 pound gain instead of the slight loss I was showing earlier in the week. It’s the obvious consequence of my actions and while I’m disappointed, I am not surprised. Nevertheless, it’s humiliating and it both saddens and sickens me.

That was when God showed me (and assured me) of His forgiveness and grace. As I cleaned up every mess today, God used them to remind me of how He completely cleans me and replaces that which I have destroyed by my own will. He truly forgives, loves, and restores me. I am truly beyond grateful! I really don’t deserve it - not one bit!! Yet, he repairs what I never could and releases me from my immense sin debt that I have accumulated in my lifetime and could never atone for or “clean up”. He takes my guilt and sorrow and uses it for good (Romans 8:28).

I’m glad that I am now more convicted over my food mishaps instead of regularly being so callused and indifferent about it. Gluttony is a sin that breaks His heart just like any other, and I’m glad that I’m finally truly disturbed by it to the point of tears and true remorse. I pray that He will continue breaking my heart as needed. It’s painful and unpleasant, but necessary. Like someone once told me, “When we’re broken we’re teachable.” God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1).

Grace and peace to all of you! I pray that you will find the joy in repentance as the grace of God transforms you from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)! May you experience the wonder of His love and forgiveness as He sets you free from (and erases) every stain and makes you new!! Jesus is the one and only stain remover! ;) Hallelujah! God bless you all!!


TINA I. B. EDGAL said...

Thanks Melissa for sharing this. Poor Gianna! Good thing he reminded you of the "Gianna" in us all .
Grace is the ultimate stain remover ,indeed. Have a pleasant weekend . Regards to your lovely family.

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