Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . Lord of the Nooks and Crannies

In my church's Wednesday night Bible study, we've been reading through Romans, taking it just a few verses at a time and really digging deep, beneath the easy and accepted answers to try to grasp the subtleties of what Paul is saying. Most recently, we've been in chapter 7, where Paul is talking about how we battle with sin.

Using the present tense, he talks about his own struggles to do the right thing and not do the wrong thing. This isn't just the battle or the sin from before the Damascus Road experience--this is now. I think all too often people use this as an excuse. "Look, even Paul still struggled with sin, so surely it's not surprising that I do!"

But it's important to ask what sins he's talking about. Is he still struggling with persecuting Christians? I don't think so. With legalism? Paul's letters certainly never indicated that this is something he deals with--in fact, we see him in Acts calling out others on it.

So should we be still struggling with our Big Sins from before we accepted Christ? Or rather, should we be okay with still struggling with those, just accepting it as part of humanity? That has never sat right with me.

And on Good Friday last week, the sermon brought this up again in my thoughts. We had a guest speaker, a retired pastor who is a regular attendee at our church. As he spoke about the work of the Cross and how the crucified Christ worked His salvation miracle for all our sins, he touched again on how those sins change over the years.

How the closer we grow to our perfect God, the more imperfections we can see in ourselves. We're not struggling with the same old sins, repeating them over and again. We're becoming ever mindful of new levels we need to reach.

Much as I hate cleaning, this is a perfect analogy. I could use any number of examples--property after a tornado, a house after a flood, a child's messy room, a table on which you've been kneading dough. The same principles apply to all.

When you begin cleaning, you start with the Big Stuff. The trees and branches; the debris and destroyed furniture; the entire toy box worth of contents on the floor; the mounds of flour and bits of crusty dough.

In being cleansed from sin, these are the obvious things. The murder and adultery and idolatry. This is where God is saying, "Yeah, we'll worry later about whether you pray in every moment you should. Right now, let's just make sure you're not still frequenting the prostitutes at the temple in Corinth, okay?" I'm not saying clearing this is easy. It's not. It's hard work, and if you've been mired in these big, noticeable sins for a long time, breaking free of them is work. Manual labor style, exhausting work. But there's no question of whether you need to do it after you come to Christ, so you buckle down and get to it.

But once the big stuff is cleared out, after you take a breather, thinking, "Wow, I did good work! I cleaned up a lot of my life! Let me just take a peek at what I've done..." you go back and look. And do you know what you see?

All the twigs still scattered around your property. The mud on your floor. The bits of paper and trash in your kid's room. The oval of flour on the table that just won't brush off.

Maybe in your spiritual life, this is the loving your neighbor and loving God first. Still important things, right? Your yard or house or room or table sure don't look clean with them there. Similarly, your spiritual life is obviously not right if you say you've accepted Christ but can't spare a kind word for anyone around. So you set to work on those too.

And once you finish this round, it might look pretty good, right? If you don't look too closely, it's neat and tidy.

But we're not finished. There are still leaves in the yard. The room needs scrubbed. The floor needs to be vacuumed. The table wiped down, maybe even sprayed with something. And it doesn't end there, either. Because the wind will blow again, footprints will be tracked in, new toys dropped, fingerprints or new food will land on that clean table.

Cleaning up our souls is a process too--a never-ending one. Because as we continue to live and encounter new situations, new clutter or dirt lands on us, right? It's not that we should be continually working on those first things--it's that the cleaner we get, the more nit-picky we get. Those tiny flaws that weren't even visible under the big problems--the nooks and crannies of our spirits--need our attention once the bigger stuff is cleared away.

But I love that our God is so big and yet so detail-oriented. The God of the cyclone is also the God of the whisper. The Lord who forgives us for the Big Sins also pours out His mercy on those nooks and crannies.
Because He wants us to be Holy, as He is holy.

He doesn't want us to be content with clean enough. He wants our souls and spirits and hearts to be pure. Pristine. Like His.

Are we too content to stop after the first or second round, or let new clutter undo the work we've done before? What crannies inside us need His attention today?


  1. Wow. Your post is so timely. Our small group is also studying Romans and getting deeper than the familiar. Your analogy is wonderfully rich (especially to those of us in charge of domestic affairs). Thank you!

  2. Great stuff! Thanks Roseanna!

  3. This was very helpful to me, the pictures you paint with your words made all the difference in giving me a deeper understanding. Maybe even one where I can be kinder to myself.