Today (29th July) is Day 128 of the official lockdown here in the UK. Although other parts of the country may be experiencing some reprise from the initial restrictions, here in Wales it feels like we are taking our foot off the break much more slowly.
Four months and six days is a long time. But I’m not really sure I’ve quite got the hang of life in lockdown! I don’t know if you feel the same way? I hear of great lockdown projects that people have launched into, or new technologies, lifestyles, habits, hobbies, and rhythms that are already paying dividends… and I’m not sure I’ve had quite the same experience.
That’s probably because there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to get hang of it, and is wanting to resist getting too used to things as they currently are.
Of course, it’s not helped either by the fact that there have been several different stages of lockdown along the way, and many new guidelines to keep up to date with and to work through what quite that’s going to mean.
But nevertheless, 128 days is a long time… and yet the whole question of “how to make the best use of the time” seems to be one I keep coming back to.
There are times when what holds our progress back the most is our frustration due to the lack of progress so far! We get distracted from things we want to do, try or change but the sheer frustration of not having been able to do, try or change them… yet! (That little word ‘yet‘ is probably the most important word in the sentence, but one that is the source of great faith and great frustration at the same time!).
Sometimes it can feel that like all of these “not-yet”s are cluttering up of lives, like a layer of dust and dirt over our present peace of mind and future plans. How do we clear a way and find a space to begin again?
I recently came across a great metaphor from a Martial Artist, Story teller and Philosopher:
Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.
We all love those Hollywood stories of overnight successes, naturally gifted prodigies and instant experts – but these are fairy tales. Read just a handful of honest autobiographies and you’ll see that failure, hard work and sometimes plain old good fortune play more of a role that our condensed versions allow for. The floor has been “swept clean” again and again. What is now part and parcel of the lives of these heroes of ours was once a “not-yet” in the distance, and they put in the hours to “sweep the floor” again and again – and the greatest ones are still doing precisely that! Training, practising, slogging, plodding…
This metaphor reminds me of the time when Jesus knelt in front of Peter to wash his feet. Peter cannot handle the gesture – it’s too much for him to allow Jesus, his master, to stoop beneath him and serve him in such a menial way. Jesus explains that we must be clean otherwise we can have no part with Him. So Peter does a characteristic 180 flip and says: “In that case, don’t stop there – wash my hands and head as well!”
With incredible patience, Jesus looks into the eyes of His eager friend and reassures him:
Those who have taken a bath are completely clean and do not have to wash themselves, except for their feet. (John 13.10)
At home sometimes the time we notice the messiness most clearly is just after we tidied up and new mess has happened. This can be frustrating and feel like we had completely wasted our time – and yet, the whole house doesn’t need to be cleaned again – just the new mess.
Jesus gives us hope here that spiritually this is equally true. We all mess up in our relationship with God, we all hope to know Him, love Him and serve Him better, and we all experience the same frustrations as try to do that. We can all set out great energy, passion and expectations – and find ourselves wondering quite where it all disappeared off to.
But Jesus tells us, we have been washed clean! As one of the all-time-greatest hymns goes:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul!
(Horatio G. Spafford)
We walk in complete freedom with Jesus – cleansed from all that’s past!
None of us can claim a perfect walk though. There are times, of course, when all of us need to come back to Him to symbolically wash our feet, to cleanse us from recent messes of our own making – but this is not a complete reset. He is willing and able to remove any new stains we bring Him in genuine repentance!
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3.22-23)
His mercy (a word often translated as: “unfailing love/kindness”) is new every single morning of your life. Yes, as hard as it is to believe – He really is that faithful!
So wherever you’re at today and whatever frustrations you may be facing – get up and grab the broom, get to work and sweep away the dust – knowing that any progress you make now (however faltering or slow) is still progress. That any regret brought to Jesus can be transformed – not just into repentance, but into restoration! He is able to do in us what we can’t, which is not just to sweep the dirt to one side, but to take it away forever. And He does it without resentment, weariness or disappointment: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.
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