by Joanie Butman
This Wednesday ushered in another Lenten season. I have an abysmal track record adhering to any fasting discipline. I promised myself this year would be different. It was. I lasted three days rather than two, and I spent two of those three days recovering from my Fat Tuesday celebration. Regardless, perfection is not the intention during Lent or life. If we were capable of that, we wouldn’t need a Savior, would we?
When it comes to Lent, I can’t help but think about when I was young and my mother would have us clean up before the cleaning person came. It seemed counterintuitive to me if not utterly ridiculous. Eventually, as a mother myself, I understood her logic and would have my children do the same. It is impossible to clean with clutter in the way. You may think it a stretch, but I view Lent as a similar exercise. The clutter is just spiritual in nature. Lent is a lot like spring cleaning, where we declutter our hearts and minds to make room for Christ to come in and do a thorough and deep cleaning.
As I mentioned recently, our house is on the market and I spent the better part of this winter pruning and polishing. It’s amazing how much dust and junk you can accumulate in 18 years – physically and spiritually. In addition to decluttering, my realtor instructed me to make sure the windows are clean. My house is now in order and presentable, which comes at the perfect time so I can use Lent to do the same with my soul.
The BIG difference is that I’m not trying to make myself presentable to God. On the contrary, I am presenting Him with the very things I need help cleaning. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are methods to achieve clarity in recognizing those areas that need work. For me Lent is all about putting my relationship with Christ in order.
A timely devotional I read this week drew the analogy that “dust is the sin that can build up on the windows of our hearts, keeping us in shadows and darkness.” That comment reminded me of a sermon my father once shared with me.
The priest started with the statement that he thanked God because He does windows. He then described us all as windows. Why did God make us that way? Because he made us in His image and likeness, and He wanted everyone we come in contact with to be able to see Him through our windows. But like all windows, when subjected to the elements, they become dirty and difficult to see through. This is where God, with the wonderful rags of grace, cleans these windows so they may reflect His image once again. Not once, twice, not even a thousand times during the course of a lifetime. His love and mercy is forever, or as long as we ask for it.
Cleaning windows is no easy task, and they don’t even stay clean very long. It takes some preparation as well. You have to clear everything away before you can even start. Sounds a little like Lent, don't you agree? I really appreciate Raphael and his crew that come and do my windows a couple of times a year, but I am in awe of the One who comes on a daily basis to Windex my heart so His light can shine unobstructed for all to see. And so I can see beyond myself. Clean windows work both ways, seeing in and out.
Window cleaning is also an expensive endeavor, which is why I only have them done twice a year. However, Christ has already paid in full for our eternal window service! Why not choose to take advantage of it? When we choose to nurture our relationship with Christ, we can’t help but reflect His essence to others.
So, am I beating myself up for my poor showing again this year? No. As I never get it perfect the rest of the year, why would I expect these six weeks to be any different? It took me a long time to build up the muck clouding my windows. It’s going to take more than 40 days to clean up that mess. I’ll leave you with something reassuring I like to keep in mind, “every minute of every hour of every day is another chance to make a new choice.” I believe Christ is more concerned with our progress and perseverance than perfection. Choosing to let perfection get in the way of progress is never a wise choice.