I was 25 the first time I went fishing for catfish. I was in Rolla, Missouri and my great Uncle took us out back to his “pond” (coulda’ passed for a lake) to teach this city girl how to “catch me som’ dinner”. I did catch a perch and a couple catfish which was by far, the most exciting part. The rest of the experience I wouldn’t care to repeat. The set up was awful: worms, needles, hooks, catfish bait (aka FOUL STINKINESS); slimy-wetness was on everything including me and it was humid and HOT. This did NOT a happy fisher-woman make.
After the catch, it just got worse! My uncle wanted me to “clean” the fish. I looked at him and asked the obvious question, ‘Didn’t he just come out of the water? Don’t we just rinse him off?”
That poor fish. What a way to go! Needless to say, I was grossed out most of the time. I couldn’t WAIT to get away from it all: take a shower and wash away the day and the STINK. Everywhere I turned, I smelled catfish bait (which, if you are unfamiliar with it, has got to be one of the top 10 WORST smells EVER). I took a hose to myself to no avail: it was rubbed into my skin! I couldn’t STAND myself and couldn’t escape. Grandma called us in for lunch and I had to sit uncomfortably in my own funkiness.
Have you ever felt this way about yourself, spiritually speaking? Ever feel like the dirt and foulness is rubbed so deep into your soul that it can never be washed away? And what if God invited you into His nice, clean, spotless home? Would you feel too stinky, dirty and embarrassed to even set foot in such a place?
2010 was a year of “peeling” back for me meaning that God revealed the true condition of my heart. What I used to think was “not so bad” turned out to be a code blue. It shocked me and just when I thought I was ready for recovery, I’d look deeper and find more brokenness. The more I saw, the more I felt like a dirty, smelly, broken, unbearable wretch.
It’s a painful process: seeing yourself for what you are. The scriptures say all have fallen short. None, not one, is righteous. Each time I found a lie I had believed, a lie I had lived, saw my pride, discovered wrong motives and looked straight at my sin, I cringed. I cried. I felt like the more God showed me, the more of a “hopeless” case I was. I couldn’t stand myself nor could I escape.
For 17 years, I’ve heard the phrase, “Come as your are.” It’s an invitation I hear spoken by churches (although it originated with God ) but until last year, I never really grasped its meaning. How could I? My eyes were not openned until now. The first time believer sees his or herself as one who has found grace and freedom at last: all things have PASSED. But what about the one who found it, embraced it and then set it down and walked away? What about the one who abused Grace? What about the one who wonders if Grace is truly unconditional for the perpetual sinner? What of the hypocrite? Until just recently, I never felt like my eyes were “wide open”, seeing the full magnitude of the stinky mess I had made of myself.
When we can barely stand ourselves, we ponder what others will think when they get a “whiff” of who we really are. And if people cringe, if I cringe at myself, surely God would reject this hot mess?
But God is not like me. He is not like people. His ways are not our ways. He is God. He is Love. And Love is forgiving. Love is kind, tears down walls and welcomes us, smell and all. Love invites us to come close: YES! God Himself has invited us to come into His perfect home and sit in His unblemished presence INSPITE of our foulness. It’s tempting, my friend, to draw back from the open door. But I encourage you: take a chance on Love. His love alone will wash you from the inside out: whiter than snow you will be. And it will have NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with Him and His Grace.
The secret to cleansing and healing is in the invitation: Will you accept?