I cleaned my kitchen today. That this seems newsworthy, tells you how rarely I clean the grime from my refrigerator and cupboards. I told you that I was going to share the real and messy parts of my life, so here it goes. I hope you are still willing to come to dinner sometime after reading this.
This morning I read an article about cleaning for Passover, and how even if you aren't celebrating Passover it is a great way to start your spring cleaning. Then, this afternoon, when the kids weren't feeling quite well enough for their activities but weren't sick enough to just be lumps on the couch, I decided that we were going to clean out our refrigerator. I told them how our Jewish friends are getting ready for Passover, and how part of the preparation is getting all of the yeast or leaven out of their house. Wouldn't this be a fun object lesson?
As we opened the refrigerator we collectively told the stories of the first Passover, and why there was unleavened bread (there was no time for the bread to rise, they had to leave all the old behind), and what the chametz, or leaven represented (it is considered things that corrupt you, or evil impulses). Then we asked God to clean us just like we were cleaning the refrigerator.
We took everything out, checked expiration dates and started to clean the gunk out of our fridge. The kids were overwhelmed at the job, said it was going to take them a long time to recover, worked a little, and then tried to walk away because the job was just too hard. After setting the stage for this to be a spiritual lesson I found myself unable to stop without doing it well, but secretly I was trying to figure out if we could put everything back in and just wait until we had a new refrigerator and take better care of the new one.
I had no idea how much goo was stuck in the crevices of the shelves, and on the walls of the fridge. I am really good about keeping the outside of the refrigerator clean, you know, the part everyone can see when they walk by. I clean up the spills from inside too, but they are usually the really bad ones; the ones start to ruin everything, or ooze out of the inside. I don't pay attention to the crumbs and the small things that spill in the day to day. I just hadn't taken time to look and see what the condition of the inside was. I had other things that were more important.
I had no idea how many old spoiled things I was holding onto that were way past their prime; condiments that were lost in the back and left to languish. They were taking up valuable real-estate and at times spoiling other things. There were even things in the fridge that just plain stunk.
Once the shelves were clean, the spoiled was thrown out, and the things that were good had all the old residue wiped away we loaded everything back into the refrigerator. It was so clean and shiny. You could actually see what we had and what we needed. When new groceries were loaded in, it was so easy to put the new things where they belonged too.
It turns out that the object lessons was as much for me as it was for the kids.
I learned that hard work is easier with your trusted friends. They are the people that knew me the best, had some of the same mess, and didn't think less of me because of the grime. They kept me from doing it half-heartedly, or just ignoring it and walking away.
I saw that a lot of the problem is that I just didn't see. I didn't look at the condition of my refrigerator or cupboards and I don't look at the condition of my life. In day-to-day life I am so busy that I just reach in and get what I need without really looking around. The same is true in my life. I am so busy that I don't even consider what the evil impulses that surround me. Cleaning like this takes time; first to evaluate where the mess is, and then to remove it. I also found that I am far more concerned with what the outside looks like. I am more likely to address the areas of my life that are visible to others. I also found that it gets a little easier as you continue to do it.
I found that there are things that are old and spoiled and are taking up valuable real-estate in my life and I am still holding on to them. You know, those old hurts, and failures that keep me from moving forward, and seem to take a little away from the things that are good in my life. I'm convicted that there are things in my life that stink, and it sometimes overshadows the aroma of Christ.
I discovered that it is much easier to put new good things in, if you have taken the yucky old things away first. I know there are times that God has put new things into my life and I have just tried to cram it in alongside the old. With the old gone, you can see what is actually there and what needs to be used. You can also see what you need more of.
Inspired by my object lesson, I hit the books to see what else I could learn about removing "chametz" or leaven from your house to prepare for Passover. When you are preparing for Passover the cleaning is serious, and takes place in every room of your house. You look in the closet floors, the pockets of your coat, under the cushions of your couch, and and all the other places where the debris of life falls. This isn't a one day project, it takes somewhere between a week and a month.
I also learned that leaven was usually a lump of old bread dough that was saved, fermented and added to the new bread dough, in the same way that we use a sourdough starter as a leavening agent.
When Yahweh was taking the Israelites out of Egypt, it was also important that he was taking all of the bits of Egypt out of the Israelites. They had taken on the residue of Egyptian life, and had become prone to worship the gods of Egypt in addition to worshiping Yahweh. When Yahweh lead them to freedom He didn't want any of the old to come with them. He demonstrated that he was greater than all of the gods of Egypt in the 10 plagues, and now he commanded them to leave that behind and worship Him alone.
This is just as applicable to us as Christians entering into the celebration of Easter. Jesus, acted as our Passover lamb, and was sacrificed so that the angel of death would pass by us. He has set us free, and wants to lead us away from the things that we have been slaves to. Through his death and resurrection he demonstrated that he is greater than any of the other things we worship or structure our life around. In Jesus, God has made us a new creation, and the old is gone (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is good for us to take time to look for and remove the old lumps in our lives, they shouldn't be the activating agents in our lives any longer.