It is ridiculously easy to paint a pretty picture of ourselves. External morality is what a lot of us strive for, displaying our perfect marriages and our flawless parenting skills and our neat-as-a-pin “clean living,” usually via facebook statuses and profile pictures.
But external morality really isn’t that impressive, is it?
I mean…anybody can clean up the outside.
I used to take great pride in the fact that I am a lifelong teetotaller, that my mouth is profanity-free, that my schedule is filled with church activities…
But then I got majorly slapped upside the head and came to a most shocking revelation:
Its when you start looking on the inside that you find the dirt. The Word of God, perfect and true, shines a blinding light on the hidden filth of your soul. The deeper you dig, the uglier it gets. And once exposed to the wickedness within, you can’t escape it. You find that, even in the quiet of night, lying in your bed, your mind still has the capacity to wage war against the Law of God; all of your daily work is over, but the battle against sin and death and hell rages.
It is exhausting.
It makes me cry.
In fact, I cried today after I put the children down for their nap. Gideon was upstairs wailing over the fact that his bandage wouldn’t wrap around his arm just right. The thing is, he doesn’t need a bandage. His arm is not broken, his leg is not broken, his head is not broken. However, that hasn’t stopped him from wrapping his various limbs with a very long bandage for the past two weeks. We’ve already washed it once it was so dirty, and it is becoming very stringy and flimsy, which has led to it looking like one poor excuse of a bandage. And that doesn’t sit well with Mr. Fastidious. I was so put out with it all and just stormed downstairs to revel in my one-guest pity party, leaving him upstairs in hysterics.
Yet the gloriously frustrating thing about coming to grips with the fact you are a sinner through and through is that you can no longer be angry and blame it on somebody else. You can’t have pity parties and enjoy them. Rather, you sit still for five seconds, and the spotlight of wrongdoing is illuminating no one but your big, fat, ugly self. As I sat on the couch with my head in my hands, I realized that my problem today really had nothing to do with the screaming bandage-boy upstairs. As usual, it had everything to do with me.
Here I have this brand-new two-story farmhouse, the thermostat is reading a cool 72, my children are healthy, my marriage is not falling apart, I have all the fixin’s for Root Beer floats and blackberry pie in the pantry (oops, scratch that…I forgot to buy the ice cream, dang it!), I have the Spirit of God to lead and guide me, and yet my soul has just felt plumb dreary for the past few days. Discontent. Uptight. Lackluster. I feel like a failure of a parent, a failure of a wife, a failure of a housekeeper, a failure of a healthy child of God.
So what if I don’t chew tobaccey? External morality does nothing to console a woman when she is down.
Thankfully, I have a husband who doesn’t mind it when I call him, in tears, to conduct a Southern Baptist “confession” on the phone. And even more thankfully, I have a husband who doesn’t just say “You’re doin’ great, pal! Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Instead, he commanded me to go read my Bible.
Psalm 37 to be exact.
I took my Bible to the staircase and skimmed through it, unsure if he had said Psalm 37 or Psalm 137. I flipped to Psalm 137. The last two verses read:
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
Nope. Psalm 37 it is. I flipped back to it, quickly, chuckling a little through my tears. The song he directed me to washed over me as I read…
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
As I continued to read this wonderful chapter, the Word reminded me that God will be faithful to me. He will cause my children to love him. He will remember me. Don’t fret. Don’t worry. Trust. Obey. Commit all of these things to God.
Gideon eventually joined me on the stairs, both of us still sniffling from the tears we had just spent, eyes red and puffy. What a pair we make, both of us crying over things not going our way. I shared with him the simpler parts of what I had just read, and I prayed with him, that God would give him a happy heart.
It is the same prayer I am praying for myself even now, as God continues to take this white-washed tomb and make it righteous to the bone.