Lessons From the Vacuum Cleaner

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

Jesus and I don’t usually talk when I’m cleaning, but today was different. Monday has been my “cleaning day”, with few exceptions, since we moved to our new home last October.

Today was no different. Lucky for me, my husband had just bought a new vacuum cleaner (Why do you do that to us, husbands?) It had been sitting nicely in the corner for a week and he complained yesterday that I hadn’t used it yet. Today was the day!( Now, our previous vacuum had been out of commission for a few months, and I had spent several weeks on my hands and knees picking up the noticeable pieces of garbage.)

For some reason God decided to make His presence evident in the mundane task of vacuuming. In fact, during my 5 hour clean-fest, He revealed countless spiritual illustrations.

The most striking one revolved around the dirt in my carpet. As I vacuumed room after room, making several trips to the garbage bag dumping the vacuum canister, I was brought back to that day in April. The day my life changed. The day I spent 4 hours repenting.

For 4 years I had been on my hands and knees picking up the big pieces of sin from my spiritual carpet until that day in April where God ran His vacuum cleaner over my soul. I hadn’t been off the deep end running amok in all sorts of depravities. No, I had spent the last few years reading, studying and soaking in every bit of God’s word that I could. I served in my church, and was learning how to serve my husband. I was growing. You would never have thought I needed to spend a day repenting of much. I know I didn’t.

When that new vacuum rolls over the dirty carpet, so much is revealed that was invisible to the naked eye.

Just like my living room carpet, I was unable to pick up the finite pieces of dust with my hands. And so it is for most of us. We walk through our lives with our 15 minute devotions in the morning and ten minutes of prayer at night (twenty minutes if there’s a crisis) picking up the big things leaving the particles behind.

Like he did with Isaiah, God desires to sear our hearts with the hot coals of his presence. The problem is we take Him for granted. We take his truth for granted. We take his holiness for granted. We think we’re so much better than we are. Meanwhile, our spiritual carpet collects bags of filth until one day we have an encounter we’ll never forget. God brings us to our knees, rolling over us with His vacuum, sucking out all the junk. He won’t let His children rest comfortably with dirty hearts.

And then it’s done, right? One painful day of brutal honesty and we’re good.

You’d think after 5 hours of cleaning I’d be satisfied with the state of my home, but as I walked through the rooms admiring my labor, I noticed the base-boards. Oh yes, still more work to be done, and by the time I get around to the base-boards, the piano will need dusting, more laundry will need to be cleaned, and I’ll probably be vacuuming again.

Just like our carpets continue to collect dust and dirt, our spiritual lives do the same. He reveals only what we can handle at the moment. The more he purges, the more we notice new areas that need cleansing.

If Jesus walked into your spiritual house today, would you be embarrassed? Well I’ve got news for you. He’s already there, he is present with you at all times whether you “feel” it or not. Does his holiness astound and confound you? Could you claim to be as holy as the prophet Isaiah? Even as righteous as he was, when in the presence of Almighty God, he couldn’t stand his spiritual state.

Today, the lesson from the vacuum cleaner reminds me to stand amazed at the person of Christ and to seek His cleansing frequently, remembering what I am without Him.

“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Isaiah 64:6&8

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The Junk in My Trunk

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Suggested reading: Isaiah 59

Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

Imagine you’ve beautifully decorated a cake. You spent years studying how to decorate it to perfection, and all that knowledge has paid off. Your cake looks marvelous, anyone would want it at their wedding. That is unless they cut into it. You see, you spent so much time learning how to decorate the cake, you never took the time to learn how to bake the cake! Your ingredients were not measured correctly, and were not good quality. You had a beautiful cake that was inedible.

This describes the majority of us. We’ve accepted the teachings that we “should” act a certain way. So, we attempt to decorate our appearance (with the best of intentions) rather than fixing the inside. It’s called legalism. “Surely a real Christian wouldn’t act that way!” Perhaps that “Christian” has too much junk in their trunk, and they don’t realize it.

I have spent many years learning the Bible, doing studies, and attending classes, but those facts did not set me free. As a believer I continued to struggle with eating disorders, addictions, and ungodly attitudes. It was a daily struggle which often ended in despair. “I’ll never be able to do this!” There are many denominations that would label me a “non-believer” based on my actions. What was my problem?

When I went through The Steps to Freedom in Christ I started to understand what was holding me up. Yes, I did have a heart that sought after God, but I had too much junk in my trunk making it impossible for me to drive up the mountaintop of freedom. I struggled every day with wanting to do the right thing, then failing to do it. I chalked it up to Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:24, “Oh wretched man that I am!” I guess it’s the way it will always be; trying to do good and failing. I was taught and believed this was the way of the Christian life, ups and downs; failures and successes.

I had tried to forget about my past and move on for many years, yet I had failed to deal with it head on. One thing I did was list every physical act partaken of with another man that was not my husband. I had to write down their names and what I did. I even had to write down my husband’s name and everything we did before we were married. I went through the list systematically renouncing the deeds and the spiritual bonds it produced. Those were things I tried to forget for many years. I never realized that just pushing the memories away didn’t fix the problem. I had made spiritual agreements with these people and these bonds needed to be broken. Just because I had re-dedicated myself to Jesus didn’t mean the spiritual bonds of sin were severed. Had God already forgiven me? Of course! He forgave me as He suffered on the cross for my every shameful choice, but I couldn’t experience freedom until I acknowledged and renounced my actions.

Repentance isn’t for God, it’s for me.

This process was repeated in every area of my life, not just sexual sin. I’m talking about down to “obeying the laws of the government”. Yes, that means speeding and other traffic violations whether or not I was “caught”. Does this sound extreme to you? I assure you, it’s not. A lifetime of junk piling up set a wall between me and true freedom.

I am living life on the mountaintop now because I finally emptied out the garbage. I acknowledged its existence, renounced it and repented, allowing me to experience the freedom of Christ completely. We’re wearing ourselves out trying to get up that mountain with 500lbs of bricks on our backs. We’re fighting a losing battle by decorating a cake with inedible ingredients.

For the first time in my life I am “living” the way I should; not out of effort but because I have been changed from the inside out.  If my trunk is filled with junk I’ve never faced, I will have no room to retain the truth of Jesus that results in changed behavior.

Am I perfect? No, but I am equipped, armed, and ready for the spiritual battle that rages every day of my life and that has allowed me to walk in my position with Christ as a saint.