housecleaning time

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.orange tree

Most people don’t like housecleaning, do they?  Yeah, I know the end result is amazingly comforting and fulfilling, but the actual work can be a lesson in Boredom 101.  Dust, sweep, scrub, organize, grab the Ty-D-Bol, where’s the Ajax?  For me, it’s a trip into futility because I know cleaning will need to be done again in another two weeks.  And then, before I realize it, the two-week period stretches into a month and I look at my house completely disgusted with myself for being such a dirt-bag.

I am certain none of you, my illustrious readers, have this problem.  You all seem to be outstanding people with impeccable cleaning habits.  But how about your heart?  How often do you get down into the nitty-gritty of what’s on your heart and do a ruthless housecleaning?  Throw out the old, ponderous grudges?  Get rid of guilt baggage that simply is not useful anymore?  Maybe rethink theology that no longer makes sense in your life?  C’mon, let’s get honest.

King David, in Psalm 51, has been confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding David’s affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  David and Bathsheba  David, from the palace, spied the beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop and sent for her.  Then, having slept with Bathsheba while her husband was fighting with the armies, David, in due time, faced the consequences of his sin learning that she was pregnant with his child.  To conceal his transgression King David ordered Uriah home from the battle front believing the soldier would sleep with his wife and the pregnancy could then be attributed to her husband.  Uriah, however, refused to sleep with Bathsheba while his fellow warriors continued to fight in battle.  To him it was a matter of honor.  David then continued with his deceit, got Uriah drunk believing that his soldier, filled with wine, would certainly bed his wife.  That ploy also failed whereupon King David ordered his soldier to the most dangerous position on the front line where he was killed in battle.

End of story, right?  Actually not.  Not only did the entire episode have a witness in the prophet Nathan, David’s conscience and the guilt over his actions were invalidating his spirit.  He was a deeply devout man who had fallen to lust, deceit and murder.  Psalm 51 is a petition to his God, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness…..wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin….cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”

Not quite as eloquently, but equally contrite and remorseful, I have again and again and again petitioned the Lord of my life for forgiveness and cleansing.  Cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew.  It will be a lifetime endeavor because I am a human who is faulted and broken in need of a forgiving, loving, compassionate God.

Housecleaning is a good thing.  Sometimes we find things that were thought to be lost.  Sometimes we discover dirt that could be harmful to us.  Often we can rid ourselves of useless bric-a-brac.  But always, we finish the chore feeling cleansed and renewed.

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

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psalm 51

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1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Psalms 51: 1-3 The Voice The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

These verses were sometimes referred to as the “Hangman’s Prayer.”  A sentenced convict was given an opportunity to set things right with the One he/she called Almighty before the noose tightened.  Grace and mercy reigned when that Power was called upon.

In addiction we also receive the sentence of death for our walk into hell.  It is a spiritual death often more onerous than the finality of a hangman’s noose.  Surely, I often prayed for a physical end to my suffering for I could not fathom a life other than that of an alcoholic.  Others were able to drink socially or totally abstain, but not me.  My demons would not allow it and my God, yes I did believe, would never forgive me.

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I am a miracle who walks aside millions of others like me who finally faced the toughest decision of our lives.  Admitted, believed, and made a decision to turn it over.  That “God of my understanding” listened to my confessions, forgave every one of my transgressions, and then transformed a wretched human into something useful, clean and serene.

God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.  Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.  Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!

Psalms 51:10-12 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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