Friday, June 20, 2008

Dust in the Wind (and everywhere else sin finds a foothold)

This past week I decided to finally tackle the ever growing problem of an extremely cluttered workspace. I could easily chalk it up to the fact that I am an artist and my mess is my drawing board. That wouldn't exactly be the truth though, because even though I'm an artist I detest chaos and disorder. A big part of the reason for the mess is that 1.) I have too much stuff without enough 'stuff holders' and 2.) my kids have a brutal habit of "cleaning up" by putting everything on my desk, or in my workspace. Someday I suppose they'll grow out of that but for now they're my clutter monkeys.

I've made a pretty good dent in the clutter, and it feels really good to clear that away. Something I've noticed though, is that no matter how much clutter I remove, no matter how clean my desk is, no matter how often I dust (every day), there's always a fine layer of dust on everything. I suppose there could be all kinds of reasons for this that I could attempt to eliminate, but this is just the way it is in this house. Things get dusty, and often.

Duster in hand this morning, I thought to myself "wow, this is just like sin". It doesn't matter how "clean" you get, how often you "dust" by diligent study of the word, diligent prayer over things you know you need to pray about, and the super-fantastically-wonderful growing in grace we all do, there is still and will always be as long as we're in the flesh, this propensity toward sin, and sinful things. Worse than ugly dust, it's not just on us but it's in us. All of us.

I was chatting with a friend last night who was frustrated over several different unpleasant events all coming to a head at once, and also frustrated with some of the conduct she witnessed by folks she described as "those who should have known better". I knew exactly what she meant by that. She was expressing that they were Christians and they should have acted like Christians. It's quite a natural expectation - we expect dogs to bark, cats to meow, babies to cry, sinners to sin and Christians to be filled with grace toward others. Most of the time, it works out that way. When it doesn't work out that way with Christians, is when we haven't been mindful of that dust that we carry around in us called sin. In each of us from the fall, it's always there and always something we absolutely must deal with daily, or even hourly if need be.

I know my own weaknesses quite well. Among them include being prone to being short with my kids when I'm busy doing something. I think a lot of parents will understand this one. It's the putting up of the hand like a stop-signal to cut them off and the comment you make that dismisses whatever they just came to you with (because in your mind it's petty and doesn't need to be addressed at that moment in time, and whatever you're doing is truly important and does require your time at that moment). I truly detest that I do this, but I've been doing it since my oldest was about 2 years old so I have lots of practice at it. To a lot of people it's a small thing, but to me it's a layer of inner-sin-dust that I don't want there. While there are some days and some times that what I'm busy doing really shouldn't be interrupted, I should be the one to be the grace-giver and stop what I'm doing to hear what they have to say. Address their concerns (no matter if they're petty to me, they're obviously important to them or they wouldn't be mentioning them) and do my best to steer them the right direction to resolve whatever conflict or unanswered situation they've come to me with. Truly, I should be thankful that I am the one they did come to, and seize that opportunity to be that vessel of grace and a great example of how to respond - but that isn't always my first reaction at all.

Over the last couple of years I become more and more convicted of this each day, and have been trying very hard to respond the right way in this kind of situation. Honestly it is far easier to flip up the hand and dismiss, but that's not at all showing an example of grace and compassion so it's not how I want to respond, nor is it the example I want any of them to follow after, and respond to others with. I have in fact seen them do it, and I'm the first one to tell them how unkind and how rude it is. Funny how it's so easy to see that conduct in others so much more clearly than it is to see it in yourself, isn't it?

If I closely examine my own character, I could easily list all kinds of areas where the dust settles every day. I know it's there, it's obvious to me even if others don't see it, and I get up daily and prepare myself for another day of clearing it away. If I live to be 100, there will still be dust but I will never be satisfied to let it sit there and accumulate or chalk it up to "that's just the way it is". I want to be the person He's called me to be, and I want to see that in my children as well.

That takes daily self-discipline and honest examination on my part just as much as the physical act of dusting does.

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