Monday, December 1, 2014

Cleaning Up

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV)

Every wall in the home we just purchased needed painting.  I presume the previous owner got a great deal on paint because every inch of wall space was painted light pink!  Thankfully, we had many volunteers from our church and campus ministry help get most of the walls painted with one coat of paint.  But there is still plenty to do and my wife and I have been occupied over the past week painting as much as we can.  

Yesterday, while I was painting in the living room, she was cleaning up after painting the downstairs bathroom.  I overheard her telling a guest that she couldn’t figure out how I got brushes and rollers so clean.  I yelled out, “Patience.  Lots of patience.”  

I can’t even imagine how many brushes and roller covers I have cleaned over my adult life.  I have owned five houses and have done major painting in all of them, plus I have done dozens of mission trips, most of which included some painting.  And where there is painting, there is the necessity of cleaning brushes and roller covers.  I usually volunteer to clean them because I have seen so many ruined by poor cleaning.  And good brushes, particularly, are expensive to replace.  So, whether they are mine or belonging to a ministry, I don’t want them to have to be replaced.  

The problems usually come down to poor technique and impatience. You have to get all the paint out and that takes time.  And if you don’t know how to do it properly, then it takes even longer.  Most people don’t have the patience.  Cleaning comes at the end of painting.  Anyone who paints knows how tired you can be when you’re finished.  Then you have to clean up.  Most are ready to be done already.  

I think we can fall into that trap spiritually as well.  While we are justified (forgiven of our sins) in a split moment, being transformed into the people the Lord created us to be takes a lifetime.  I have known people who become followers of Jesus but remain frustrated with the struggles they continue to have in certain areas that were struggles before coming to know the Lord.  Sometimes they become so frustrated, they just give up and their lives are ruined.  

We can tend to treat others with this type of impatience, too.  We can often welcome folks into the family of God with open and loving arms, but, if after several years they are still struggling in big ways, the reaction can be, “Hey, you got to get your act together.”  And sometimes people withdraw from them because they are not where they think they should be in their Christian lives.  

Like novice painters, we often don’t understand the nature of cleaning up.  Whether it is a brush, a roller cover, our life or someone else’s, cleaning up takes a lot of time and patience.   Thankfully, the Lord has a lot of it.  That is called grace and we are in great need of it, both for others and ourselves.

Today, recognize spiritual transformation is a long process.  We haven’t been transformed; rather we are being transformed, day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year.  And as we deal with our own struggles and those of others, we should learn from the Master of cleaning up lives.  It takes a lot of time and patience. 

© Jim Musser 2014

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