I have this really terrible habit. A habit that involves my car and days-old coffee and a willpower so weak that nine out of ten coffee cups get left behind. A habit whose repercussions aren’t so awful when you consider the fact that most days my car smells like classic vanilla Coffee Mate, but it’s a habit I’m ashamed to call mine. Because where do those nine cups go if not shoulder to shoulder inside the automatic dishwasher, you ask? In the trunk. They go in the trunk of my car.
I know, this hardly seems sanitary, but sometimes when you’re in a pinch and the cup-holders are full and someone you know is about to see the state of your disgusting car for what it is, the easiest thing to do is hide your loathsome habit in the only place no one can find them, the only place the secrets of your car will remain secret. Your trunk is the only place no reasonable passenger will go snooping around, and, if they do, the scenario is easily turned around on them:
Why do you have 17 coffee cups in the back of your car, Jessica?
What are you doing in my trunk, Janice?
The trunk is my ideal catch-all, but what happens when someone has not just a reason, but the right to go into the dark recesses of your life? What happens when someone has access and permission to find your dirty places before you’ve had time to clean them out and pretend you’re the pinnacle of neat and tidy? Let’s just say, things get real uncomfortable.
My dad happened upon my nasty little habit when he was trying to change my flat tire. In order to get it to the tire store, he was going to have to put the spare on, and the spare had its home beneath a box full of what was now weeks-old unwashed coffee cops. (What can I say? I forgot they were back there.) I awoke the next morning to an utterly mortified father and 10 coffee mugs that had sprouted mold. My dad sat me down on the living room couch and explained to me the virtues of cleanliness.
I’m twenty-four. The conversation was part comical and part pathetic, an event I could spend the rest of my life forgetting to remember. Nevertheless, he had a point and we spent the rest of the morning bleaching, and scrubbing, and terrorizing black mold everywhere.
We had a good laugh about it, then collected the coffee cups that were scattered throughout the house, the ones laid to rest on desktops and bathroom counters while their drinker had hurried past them in order to make it to work on time. When we finished I went to my room to get a start on my day.
The cup count was high – I won’t get into specifics, but I could run a restaurant with the number of mugs I’d neglected to wash. With every cup bleached and scrubbed, I felt a sense of ease enter the space between me and my father: him, because the cups were being washed, me because with every clean cup, I became less of a vile roach.
But that was all about to change, because taunting me from my bedside table were two-days-old coffee cups I had somehow overlooked.
I was devastated. We had just finished washing and I still had filth in my most sacred spaces. This was the place I slept and dressed and dreamed and prayed. This was the room I spent the most time in, the place I should be the most diligent in keeping clean. But sitting there, next to the expensive perfume and the beautifully framed Bible verse, were two horrifying reminders that I’m actually a swamp demon.
I didn’t want to bring them out. I wanted to hide them for fear of the look on my father’s face, the explanation I’d have to give, the shame I’d have to bear. Thirteen coffee cups was something we could deal with, but fifteen? I felt like I’d crossed a line.
Our sin feels that way a lot of the time. We pray and we confess and we feel like, God and us? We’re good. So we head on our merry way and realize that – oh. There’s still sin here. Sin so ugly, so sticky that we don’t even want to bring it to our Father. He just finished washing us, how can we possibly, so soon after that, come to him with more? What will he say? What will he think?
We forget that God is no longer judging us on our sin, that we stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ. God and us? We’re good all the time because it’s Christ’s record God sees when He looks at us, not ours. We try to earn the favor that’s already been given, bear the shame that’s already been borne. We hide the true depth of our sin and pretend there are no more coffee cups left to wash but Jesus implores us, “give as alms those things that are within and behold everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11:41)
When God declares us righteous, He begins the process of cleaning us from the inside out. It’s not some magical wave of His holy hand and then, like the fairy godmother we’ve always dreamed of, our deepest darkest sin is neatly stacked and shimmering bright on the shelves, no. It’s ongoing, a walk, a sanctification. Yes, we are holy because He says we are, accredited righteousness because He says He will, and made clean because He washes us so; but we must let Him wash us so.
We have to stop hiding our sin. Stop pretending like we’re already clean when we have a Father who wants to make us clean. There’s no point in giving our dirty dishes sparingly when the truth is, He already sees them all. We are the only ones surprised by our sin. While we may be discovering its depth for the first time, God is patiently reminding us that He made provisions to take care of our brokenness a really long time ago.
So come to the fountain, Church. Pour out your cisterns, or your coffee cups (or your Hydroflasks?) and be filled with the life that was promised.
And behold everything is clean for you.