As part of my morning routine, I’m reading a devotional book in which there is an excerpt from one of C.S. Lewis’ books for each day. They’re short and they’re all from books he wrote about faith…very interesting. Sometimes they’re pretty deep for 6 in the morning, but most of the time they open my eyes to new ways of understanding this Christian journey I’m on.
Today’s was about how we view ourselves as good, bad or otherwise. A person who has begun to be cleansed/changed by God begins to see more and more how bad they really are/were. But a person who hasn’t begun that process has no frame of reference for good or bad and thinks they’re pretty good. It’s a little confusing but I thought of this illustration: there have been times when I’ve cleaned a spot on the carpet where someone spilled something or one of the animals didn’t quite make it outside and afterward the spot I cleaned is noticeably brighter and cleaner than the rest of the surrounding carpet. It’s only then that I realize how dirty the whole carpet must be! Yikes.
Or think of yourself wearing black clothes in a moderately dark room. You could be covered in lint and “fuzzies” but none really show because of your dim surroundings. Walk into a bright spotlight, like the ones they use in a play, and suddenly every little speck, hair or particle is visible to everyone. Flaws and smudges you didn’t even realize were there are suddenly glaringly obvious.
As we grow closer to and more like Jesus, allowing God to prune away more and more of our old sinful selves, we realize what sad shape we were in and would still be in if it weren’t for his love and grace! The more he washes us the more we realize we need to be washed. Does that make sense?
However, if you’ve never experienced that forgiveness and grace you may not even see a need for cleaning up, although you’re filthy from head to toe, inside to outside. You may think you’re just fine.
It can be fearsome to allow yourself to be examined by God’s pure light and holiness. Seeing myself more truthfully like this causes a few different reactions: shame and unworthiness, sorrow for my filth and the things I do that offend God, and then awe and gratitude for his cleansing, healing touch! That leads me to worship Him and want to be even closer to Him.
I love this poem by Helen McDowell (I heard it in a Phil Keaggy song):
“Once I prayed, I knew not what I said.
‘Show my myself, oh Lord,’
Alas, I did not dread
the hideous sight which now
I shudder to behold,
because I knew not self aright.
And I was led in answer to my prayer,
As step by step to see
My wretched heart lay bare.
Then I prayed,
‘Stay, Lord, I cannot bear the sight.’
And pityingly His hand was stayed,
His hand was stayed.
Now I pray, I know the prayer is right,
‘Show my Thyself, oh Lord,
be to my soul the bright and Morning Star
to shine upon the grave of self
and lead my heart from earth afar,
from earth afar.’ ”
Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down. Psalm 51:1-3 The Message