The strange thing about dusting is that it never looks all that necessary until after you’ve started. The other day Jamie and I discovered this when we decided to clean up a bit in our living room. When there’s a thin layer of dust all over everything in the room, you don’t notice it as much. But when you dust off even one shelf, table or picture frame, all the rest of the dust in the room becomes immediately apparent. It’s like transforming an entire room into an abandoned warehouse with a single spritz of Windex. Of course, it was kind of like an abandoned warehouse to begin with; it’s just that it was hard to see the problem.
There’s a somewhat frustrating spiritual object lesson here. Following Jesus often necessitates facing down failings and weaknesses in ourselves which we’ve always just sort of ignored. It’s not that frustrating at first, because most of us seem to get the opportunity to start small; a sin here, a weakness there, the rest unnoticed. But when one or two of our habitual sins get wiped up, the rest of our soul starts to look exponentially dirtier. Get all the petty theft out of the way and you start to see the covetousness; get all the murder out of the way and you start to see the anger; start trying to do scary things you were never even willing to try before, and suddenly the cowardice and faithlessness that were inconspicuously there all along become far more apparent. Just like with the dust, the problem isn’t usually that we’ve got more problems than we started with; it’s that it’s easier to see the problems we always had in light of what Jesus has cleaned up.
I suppose that’s another interesting paradox…you never really know what your problem is until someone else comes along and fixes part of it. I’m referring in particular to Jesus, since He’s the only one who can really deal with our problems; but other close friends can help a bit as well. Especially the ones that aren’t impressed by us.
Of course it’s easier to run away from that, but the problem is that if nobody ever gets at least close enough to you to show you your faults, you never really get to see who you actually are.