faith

stains

“Some day I know I will be free
The weight of sin shall be released
But for now, He covers me”
– Steve Camp


I bought maybe one of my most favorite pieces of furniture ever recently. It is this really cool green end table with a couple shelves and a drawer. The best part is the iron work on the sides, simple and elegant and makes me smile every time I see it. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can at least get an idea of what I think is awesome and gladdens my heart.

So I absent-mindedly left a cup on the table the other night. It left a water ring. In the morning, I picked up the cup and saw the ring and burst into tears. It was tragic and made me so incredibly sad. The feeling of total idiocy washed over me and I kept thinking what a … well, I felt really lame. How could I be so brainless? How stupid! And now this thing is ruined and I wanted to pick it up and hurl it against the wall.

Obviously I didn’t. Maybe ten years ago I might have. Have I ever mentioned I have some anger issues? Anyway, I dried my eyes, I thought about how to fix the finish and I scolded myself into being wiser next time. And of course I will never ever make that mistake again. Right.

So then I Googled “How to remove water stains from wood” and lo and behold! There is hope!! There is always hope! And so I started to read through the suggestions – hot iron, mayonnaise, um ok – and now you can ask me if any of them worked… well, I don’t know! Because then I decided to let it go and walk away and have yet to go back because I got super lazy and sad and frustrated and had five other things to do.

And this is the way of sin. (You knew I was getting back to that right?)

Now I’m not saying that putting a cup that will sweat onto my favoritest table ever is sin. But I guess it could be. The greater illustration though is how once something sinful is done, it’s done. And then we know the steps to repentance and redemption, and we may read about it and we may Google it (I couldn’t think of a corny enough way to use the word Google for Scripture) and find that it is hard, time consuming, too humbling, too expensive, too stupid, too reminding of how lame you truly are, too confrontational, too dependent on others, and so on and so on.

The analogy falls short though in that we have the finished work of Christ on the cross, our sacrificial Lamb for all time for all our sin past present and future. But the effects of sin are still very real and very obvious and very painful and very sorrowful. And if your sin doesn’t break your heart at least once a day, you are missing the true depth of the glory of the Grace that covers it.

But the analogy does hold strong when it comes to our efforts. We have this list in our heads of how to right the wrongs – our own sacrifices and the laws that condemn us. We think if we work harder, or we try better next time, or ask for forgiveness or shower the offended party with gifts or a lot of time or however you think best expresses your love and affection, that all these things will make up for whatever it is that you have done.

Sometimes these things work. Sometimes to right a wrong you have to work hard and you have to prove yourself again. Sometimes you have to be humbled and eat a little crow and confess to each other and come up with a plan to make amends. Sometimes the stain is so deep and has been soaking in for so long, maybe longer than you even know, that you have to try multiple suggestions to even make a dent in the removal, but over time, love covers a multitude of sins.

But sometimes, the stain will never really go away. There will always be that faint ring that will remind you of the choice you made to put that cup down – accidentally, deliberately, defiantly, absent mindedly. And it will serve as a reminder, a battle scar, a thorn in your side and it hopefully serves to remind you next time, BEFORE you put the cup down, that what we do in life changes everything. Or echoes in eternity. Or think before you leap. Or whatever other phrase does it for you.

But the greatest reminder – the real point in all of it – is how our loving and gracious God moves through it all, weaving in the stains and the failures and the heartbreaks and the pains to make a kind of finish we never would have, a design so beautiful and complex and layered and profound that it could only be made in heaven. Just like the very will of God.

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