Lindsay had this cute, little white sweater to go over her Easter dress when she was about three. But by mid-afternoon, the sweater was no longer completely white. It had little chocolate smears (and drooly drips) all over it. So my cousin, Nicole, said, “Want me to get your sweater all clean for you, Sweetie?”
Nicole kindly took the sweater to the laundry room and, using stain remover, put the sweater through the washer and dryer. In an hour or so, she brought it back to little Lindsay and said, “Here, Babe! It’s all clean.” Lindsay smiled and shrugged into the clean, white sweater, still warm from the dryer.
Not two minutes later, Lindsay went to wipe her mouth on the sleeve of the sweater. Nicole said, “N-n-n-n–!” But it was too late. “Uh oh…” said Nicole. “Look, what happened, Sweetie?” She pointed at the new chocolate smear, but Lindsay just grinned at her. So Nicole smiled and let it be.
Earlier in the day, when I saw the chocolate smears, the mommy in me shrugged them off. If I immediately put every piece of stained clothing through a wash cycle, I would have had time for nothing else. Life was full of stains and smears and non-white sweaters back then.
And though our clothes stay a little bit cleaner now, our hearts are still just as smeared. We celebrate Easter as the day God washed our hearts clean as a perfectly white Easter sweater. But in any given fifteen minute period, our family can completely smear ourselves filthy with lies, criticisms, grumbling, and antagonizing. If we did a full wash cycle on each sin evidenced by a glance, a thought, or a tone of voice, we would have time for nothing else.
So, should I do my mom-shrug and say, “I guess I’ll just let the dirty laundry pile up till we get to heaven!”?? No, I want to be a little more like my cousin Nicole.
What a sweet balance she had! On the one hand, she saw the stains and tried to serve by doing something about it. On the other hand, she didn’t become exasperated, and shame Lindsay, saying, “Well, I guess we know who’s always going to be dirty!” Rather, she smiled at and showed patience and grace to a three-year-old.
This is what Jesus does. He shows us patience and grace, when we smear ourselves dirty with sin… again. Jesus would never condone our sin or shrug at it. It cost him his life to make us clean. But he doesn’t become exasperated and shame us, either.
When we see smears on our white Easter hearts, we look back at the cross to remember the day Jesus died for all the smeared people who make him Lord. We look forward to being clothed in fine linen, bright and pure. (Revelation 19:8
) And in the meantime, we daily confess our sin to him–and teach our children to do the same, knowing that he will, “forgive us our sins and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)