I had one of those fun object lesson revelations today.
You know, the kind Jesus uses to teach dimwits like me something.
Usually, they’re an illustration of a Bible verse. Short, simple, and to the point. Do you want to know what it is? (Which is kind of funny for me to ask as I write this because I have no idea if you choose to read on or not.)
I live in a typical Florida community. Like most communities, an HOA (Home Owners Association) oversees the community standards. Sometimes HOAs can be a blessing. Sometimes they can be led by would-be tyrants whose primary purpose in life is to force everyone to march lockstep with their outrageous and oppressive royal decrees making the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea look like Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Not that I’m saying our HOA is like that.
In truth, my community’s HOA is a good group of people who’ve done an excellent job with the common spaces and mostly kept the out-of-line residents within reasonable boundaries. To be fair, there are residents who live as entities unto themselves even though they signed onto the community covenant. Then they push the agreed-upon boundaries with the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” strategy.
But that strategy doesn’t always work, you know?
I’ve done a few of those little acts of rebellion by way of confession. The HOA covers the landscaping, and their crews do a great job. Everything is so tidy, it’s almost eerie. The workers do the planting and the trimming, but some of us gardeners can’t resist the urge to put a little something here or there.
Yeah, I know we’re supposed to get approval from the HOA’s landscape committee, but come on, what’s one amaryllis going to do to mess up their grand design?
Oh, but don’t think those minor additions will miss their squinting eye. Committee reps buzz around the community on golf carts, noting infractions. If busted, we soon get the infamous “Compliance Reminder” letter detailing our world-stopping violation combined with the threat of fines if we don’t remedy the offense promptly.
Well, it wasn’t my landscaping infraction that caught their attention. It was my driveway. “It has been noted that your pavers are dirty causing unsightly conditions within our community and needs (sic) to be cleaned/pressure washed.”
They do know, don’t they, that pressure washing takes money if you hire a professional and valuable time and effort if you do it yourself.
I looked at the neighbors on either side of my driveway, and they were the same tint and hue as mine. Sure, I had a few rust stains on my pavers, but my neighbor has more! Why did I get “Compliance Reminded” and he didn’t?
It ain’t fair.
Anyway, after weeks of putting it off and three days until the violation recheck, I decided to do it myself. After hooking up my home pressure washer (which is really fun to use, by the way!), I set to work, one row of pavers at a time.
At first, most of the pavers just needed a general wash. The water floated away the big debris and rinsed some grime away. Not bad. “Piece of cake,” I thought.
But the rust stains remained.
So, I trained my eye on each paver and commenced the operation with more focus and vigor. I felt like a Jedi with a finely crafted lightsaber cutting through the stubborn orange blemishes. Success!
The most satisfying pavers were the ones that became noticeably brighter with more vivid color as the spray cut through a year’s worth of dirt.
Like a turbocharged Rembrandt, I laved the pavers in a classic Baroque (not broke) style, and with each stroke, I carved patterns as I cleansed the schmutz on each surface until a uniform brilliance spread out before me. I admit it. I had an experience! You could say I was working in watercolors. (Thanks. I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.)
Speaking of painting, it reminded me of how art technicians restore centuries-old frescos. They can lift off the finest layer of grime with expertly honed skills, leaving the original varnish and paint undisturbed. I’ve seen before and after pictures of the Sistine Chapel restoration project. A color that looked like blackened gunmetal gray exploded into a vibrant cerulean blue once the grunge was expunged! Dull yellows dawned into shimmering golds! After reading this, go online and enter “Sistine Chapel fresco restoration” on your browser’s image search. Stunning!
Anyway, most of the pavers were relatively clean, so no big deal. But as the nozzle passed over some of the stones, especially the lighter-colored pavers, I could see a marked difference as the spray carved through the grit, revealing brilliant color underneath.
“Hmm,” I said to myself. “I didn’t think it was that dirty!” (Could the HOA have been right?)
Sure, a general wash made it look okay—nothing to worry about. But the HOA inspector’s initial assessment saw through my delusion, and my pressure washer now tore through it.
Thankfully, it was a hot day because the force of the spray against the edges of the pavers kicked water and debris back onto me. I was peppered with schmutz when I was done, and by that, I mean from head to flip-flop.
And then the thoughts started rolling in my head.
When we’re saved, transformed from a fallen human being to a spiritually alive and reconnected-to-God person, it’s by the “washing of regeneration and the word” (Ephesians 5:26). In other words, the Holy Spirit gets to work on us hopelessly stained sinners. Jesus’ blood (his death for us) is the cleansing agent that loosens the stain of sin from the surface of our lives. The Holy Spirit’s work is like moving water that carries away the stain, so we stand clean before our Heavenly Father.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could stay that clean?
But we still fall back into our old ways, often doing the very things that stained us in the first place. So the Holy Spirit, like the HOA inspector, drops a compliance reminder on our hearts. “It has been noted that parts of your life are smudged by sin causing unsightly conditions within you and Jesus’ community and needs to be cleaned/pressure washed.”
“But Lord,” I object, “I’m no different than my saved neighbor, and in fact, his life looks worse than mine!” Doesn’t matter. I received the notice, and the Holy Spirit expects compliance. That’s what I signed up for when I joined the Jesus Community.
So, I get to work with the Holy Spirit’s help. As I allow Him to apply Jesus’ cleansing solution to my life, I notice things getting brighter and more colorful, and my words and actions improve. The Holy Spirit whispers to me, “See? That’s your God-given look. A lot better than that greyed-out, grimy way you’ve been tolerating, right?”
Inevitably, I realize I’ve been deluding myself. I’ve slipped and not noticed. I didn’t think I was that dirty. Only the intense power wash showed me how badly I needed cleaning.
Many areas of my life just need gentle soaking and rinsing. During the foot-washing at the Last Passover, Jesus pointed this out to Peter, “He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.’ ‘You will never wash my feet,’ Peter said. Jesus replied, ‘If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ ‘One who has bathed,’ Jesus told him, ‘doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean…” (John 13:6-11)
All we need most of the time is Jesus to wash our feet that have gotten schmutzy during our daily walk with Him. Daily schmutz, daily wash.
However, sometimes we need a more intense cleansing event—a proper pressure washing.
Over the last two months, I’ve gone through that during an extremely high-pressure turbulent, and sad situation. When I wanted to attack the other person, the Holy Spirit used the pressure of the situation to reveal love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness in ways that I hadn’t done before. Was it pleasant? Heck no! It hurt a lot! But the Holy Spirit revealed things about being loving and joyful, having peace, and being kind that still affects me today and will for a long time to come.
The Holy Spirit is a Master at using pressure to get at the stains and ground-in dirt in our lives, and when He turns on the pressure, it’s painful. But, if we can hang in there, He’ll clear out the stinkin’ thinking and reactionary responses that dim the color of our born-again nature that Jesus wants the world to see in us.
The Holy Spirit washes away anger, so we shine with grace. He wipes away irritation, so we glow with the soft color of patience. The Holy Spirit blasts away hate so that we can present the many hues of love.
No one likes this kind of spiritual pressure washing. But it’s most effective at removing the trouble spots that stain our lives, revealing the myriad of tints and hues of Jesus’ character our indwelling Lord wants to show the world.
After a pressure-washing session with the Lord is done, it’s good to sit and enjoy that “The Lord is pleased with me” feeling, knowing that we’re in “compliance.” These words come alive,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, italics author).
The debris is gone. The ungodly grime is loosed and floats away down the drain. Will we stay this clean forever? Some day we will. But for now, we have a “professional” who stands at the ready to make sure we measure up to our “Jesus community” standards.
One final thing. As I stood there covered in schmutz, relishing a job well done, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus, who was willing to get covered in our schmutz to see us washed clean. To me, that’s a great illustration of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Be encouraged if you’re in that high-pressure situation and the sting of the Holy Spirit’s work is upon you and in you. It won’t last forever. The area He’s working on will soon be a vibrant part of the masterpiece He’s creating you to be.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts