Friday, June 26, 2009

Deep Clean

[This post originally appeared in slightly different form in October 2005]

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).

5:40 a.m. No lights on upstairs. Cup of coffee in one hand, computer tucked under my other arm. Conditions ripe for some kind of disaster.

I should have never tried to walk back to my study without a free hand to grope for the wall and a light switch. I make this walk every morning at roughly the same time. The cup of coffee is a constant too – but not the computer. The trek to the study leads through the guest bedroom, the very room my wife had diligently prepared for friends who would soon arrive for a weekend visit. Everything in the room was ready, including the white bed cover, now freed of the laundry stack that typically concealed (and protected) it.

The darkness was too black to navigate without some help, whether from light or from the slight sweeping motion of my outstretched arm. My plan was simple. I would place my computer on the bed and turn on a light. I moved over toward the bed to put my computer down. At this point I’m not sure where the plan went wrong, simple as it was. As I placed my computer on the bed I heard in the darkness the sound of coffee dribbling on the laundry free white bed cover.

Any early sluggishness of the blood flow in my veins disappeared with the help of a sudden adrenaline surge. The fact that my wife would not be up for nearly an hour gave me plenty of time to do some crisis management. I really have no idea what to do to a coffee stain on a white bedspread. I got a wet towel and did the best I could – which actually turned out to be a decent dissipation, if not removal, of the stain.

In fact, our guests might have never noticed the stain on the bedspread. My efforts at getting rid of it had not been entirely successful, but you wouldn’t see it unless you knew where to look. But I can see it. I know where to look.


I grew up singing gospel hymns that pictured sin as a stain and the blood of Jesus as the cleansing agent. One of the more rousing hymns asked “what can wash away my sin?” Answer: “Nothing but the blood of Jesus” (with gusto!). The blood hymns seem to have fallen out of favor these days. Our loss.

It may seem silly or even banal, my early morning coffee-spill crisis. But I came away from that little crisis with a fresh sense of what those hymn writers were talking about and what preachers of a bygone era so eloquently and passionately conveyed from their pulpits.

I recognized that the real stain of sin isn’t visible. The real ugliness of what sin leaves behind is something inward. I further recognized that the physical stain can be disguised and hidden – and so can the internal turmoil. The visible mess is nicely doctored up, and the internal is simply out of view. No one would know anything about it unless they knew exactly where to look.

But I know exactly where to look, and that’s the problem.

Here’s where the good news comes. This is what made hymn writers sing and caused preachers to raise their voices. The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Psalm 51 beautifully anticipates what Jesus did on the cross.

I know that there will be other spills, missteps, faulty moves, careless acts. But a spill can always be trumped by a flood. As one old hymn says, “sinners plunged beneath that flood loose all their guilty stains.” Thanks be to God.

Lord Jesus, today we would be done with guilt and all the baggage we carry around because of it. We let it go, not because we know better or because we’ve determined to do better – but because in your death you did everything that needed to be done to make clean, white as snow. Amen.

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