There were black stripes on the walls and on the ceiling. Walking upstairs, I saw dark swaths on both sides of the carpet. Pockets of dusky residue gathered in corners of the ceiling. I mopped the kitchen floor three times. Still black.
It was soot. Not just the kind we could wash off with soap and water. But the kind that left an oily residue, resisting all my cleaning attempts.
I thought about crying. It was a mess far bigger than I could fix. I couldn’t physically clean and repaint the walls and ceilings. Not that I wanted to, but this was beyond want to. It was out of my league.
We’d dedicated our house to the Lord. It was open to happy parties and spilled lemonade. Open, also, to hurting hearts and muddy feet. So what was the deal? I was sad, then angry. Then both.
The Lord had one word for me. Repent.
What did a problem too big for me to fix have to do with repentance? In my younger days, I’d just apply elbow grease and git’er done. This time I wandered around the house muttering, “What the heck?”
I asked and He explained. He’d put me in the middle of an object lesson. One that revealed me. Ouch.
It had to do with forgiveness.
See, I’d learned to say, I forgive. I’d made the choice to set my will in God’s direction even when I didn’t feel like it. But that was like the first layer of soot removal. Good, but not enough.
Not enough continued to scream. Not enough to keep anger and hurt from pouring back in when I faced an offender. Not enough graciousness, not enough generosity to take the final plunge and release that debt – no matter how large or small.
One of my friends told a story about riches buried under temples in India. Starving people walk overhead as their answer rests under the soles of their feet. Were there treasures hidden in me, locked away from the needs of others? Had they been marred by the soot of unforgiveness?
I figured I had to measure out forgiveness with great care because I might run out. I’d yell (inside, of course) “Stop! Too much!”
Too big a mess to fix alone. Hmm. Just like my house. Unforgiveness locked residual pain to the corridors of me. It stifled the beauty of the gift inside. The one with power to restore and reconcile because it came from the Reconciler Himself.
So I’ve decided to make the leap. Sure, I’m trembling a little. But I’m building my faith for it on purpose. Because, like you, I have a future. And that future requires more than I have.
I want it to be an unlocked future. One that offers His riches to other’s needs. The kind that restores messes and brings out the beauty hidden there all along.
Want to join me in the leap?