He spilled it…all over the freshly mopped kitchen floor. Syrup. Sticky, the high fructose corn syrup kind (I didn’t buy it, Stan did), oozing between every nook and cranny of my hardwoods. It morphed ever so slowly into the pantry, onto and around the large boxes of food I had stored from our family of five trips to Sam’s club. The syrup, shiny, sticky, thickly coating the floor caused him to scream, “Mom, I need you NOW.”
Having just sat down in the rocking chair on my front porch, my body had finally exhaled from the stress it had endured emotionally and physically earlier and throughout the day until that time. I heard him scream. I leapt upwards, gently placed my one sip gone plastic wine glass on the front step and started moving quickly toward the scream. “I need you RIGHT now!” He yelled again and this time it honestly got all over me. “I am coming! I am on my way right now!” I then heard him mutter, “Yeah, she just doesn’t care about what I need.”
Those words hurt. Because I do care, and I care deeply. But, he is seven and because I was not there literally immediately…his little mind told him that I did not care. I walked into the house and saw the expanding lake of syrup. “Oh, well,” I said, honestly – calmly – because this is seriously not something I am entirely unfamiliar with – messes in my house – often of a larger variety that require more that a quick swift of a broom. Then he said, “I didn’t do it on purpose. I’m sorry you are mad.” I looked at those big brown eyes of his and I said, “Son, I am not mad. I did not say I was mad. I said ‘Oh well.’ It is a mess, but it is a mistake and everyone makes mistakes. We will get it cleaned up. It is not a big deal.”
He raced outside to play with his friends while I ran upstairs to gather cleaning supplies appropriate for sopping up the expanding amoeba-like dark brown pile of sticky. He thought his part in this little mishap was done. He called in mama. And not so nicely. He criticized me under his breath for not being fast enough at responding to his request, he then showed me the mess, did apologize (whew, one point for parenting…) and headed back outside to play.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks…just how much am I like my seven-year old son in my response to my Heavenly Father when He does not respond as quickly as I would like him to? Am I not just as guilty of screaming His name for help and while waiting for his never-soon-enough-response, whispering my own little temper-tantrum displeasures under my breath? And once He sees my mess…let me repeat MY mess…maybe I apologize…but then I want to flee and I want Him to clean it up for me. I do not want to have to get my hands dirty and sticky, taking time away from whatever it is that I want to do to remedy my mistake…
I opened the door and called outside, “Connor, son, I need you to come help me clean up this mess.” And let me be honest here…I really did NOT want him to help me. I knew that inviting him in to help was not going to afford me the freedom to clean the mess in the way that I would do it. He might drip it on the trash can. He might step in it with his shoes. And if he stepped in it with his shoes, they might stick to the floor in other places of the house. Then I would have to clean that up. He might get it on his baseball uniform…that he just had put on and we had to leave the house in 15 minutes for his baseball practice. Did I mention it took me 30 minutes to get him to actually put that outfit on??? I did not really want his help…
But, I knew that I needed to teach him a valuable lesson. I needed to show him the effort it took to clean up HIS mess. I would not always be there to clean up his messes for him. At seven years old, yes, I would help him. I would help him learn the importance of surrendering his own desire to play outside and leave me with the mess. I would give up my own clean freak way of cleaning to invite him into the experience of down on your hands and knees on the floor, bent over, nose in the midst of the filthy…and do the hard, time-consuming, tedious task of cleaning up a big hairy sticky mess.
In biblical times, people went through ceremonial cleansing rituals when coming to worship the Lord, knowing that in order to enter the Temple of the Lord, they had to be clean or holy. They were very aware that sin made them unclean before the Lord, blocking them from being as close to the Lord as they had opportunity to be. (NIV Study Bible).
Pancake syrup is not sin…(though some may disagree especially if it is the high fructose corn syrup kind) but its seeping into every crevice in my floor and causing a lasting sticky reminder can provide a likeness of just how invasive sin can be in our lives. Despite at least 10 wipes with various high-powered cleansers only after the top layer of thick sludge was literally scraped onto the dust pan in at least 10 trips to and from the sink to empty it…that floor is still making my shoes stick when I walk through our entry way. And each time I walk through that stick…I remember the spill, the mistake…but I also remember the connection with my child, made while cleaning up his mess.
I connected with him, getting down on his level, right into the thick of his mess…and looked into his eyes that were humbled. His humility and surrender invited me closer and together, we scraped every bit of syrup off of the floor that was going to come off. While we cleaned, all else stopped. We talked, we strategized, we conquered that thick sappy lake of syrup together. And oh, how I thought of my Heavenly Father, getting on his hands and knees with me…in the deep of my own sticky muck…
God meets us where we are and does not leave us alone to carry our burdens. “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). He holds our hands, as we wipe our spills up together, just like I did with my son. He meets us where we are, whether we initially called on him graciously or not…and looks into our eyes and further into the state of our hearts.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.
In this Season of Lent, He invites us to come…to confess, to surrender and to acknowledge that we need Him to truly cleanse us from all of our mistakes. His desire is for us to be holy…blameless…and in sweet communion with Him. He yearns for us to be set apart and without blindness to His love. He sent His spotless, blameless lamb, His only son to die to allow this communion with Himself to be possible.