We have a near obsession with clean, myself included.
I love clean windows, but they rarely are.
I enjoy a clean kitchen, but it’s a continual battle.
I love clean sheets and fresh towels, especially if someone else ran them through the washer and dryer.
My bent toward clean was groomed by parents who were children of the Depression. “Being poor is no excuse for being dirty. Soap is cheap.”
Our regard for clean even permeates our language: a clean sweep, a fresh start, clean as a whistle.
As much as we like clean, it never seems to last. The sink is full of pots and pans again, the laundry has piled up and I’m tempted to write “Wash Me” in the dirt on my own car. Once again, the mess triumphs.
When we don’t have the energy, inclination or resources to address the mess, we work to conceal it. We close the door, pile the clutter higher or toss something in the back of a closet, telling ourselves we’ll get to it later. And it builds and builds and builds.
Our interpersonal messes are capable of fueling palpable anxiety, anger, depression and worse. These are the messes beyond the power of a closet organization system or household cleaners. Lady Macbeth, complicit in murder, famously rubbed her hand, crying, “Out damned spot. Out I say.” Not even a Magic Eraser could touch that.
Messes are the nagging reminders that we fall short, that we could have done better. Messes are the embarrassing signposts that we’re not as great as others think we are— we’re not even half as good as we think we are.
My mess affects your mess, your mess affects mine, and it seems the very Earth we live on demands that we address the issue of the mess. The snow melts, the ground thaws, the trees bud, that first nice Saturday arrives and we’re flocking to the hardware stores, tackling that home fix-it project or looking over the violas and pansies. We need a touch of fresh.
Spring explodes with the promise of fresh. For Christians, this is especially true. Spring arrives with Holy Week in tow, commemorating the triumphant entry of Christ, his betrayal, death and resurrection. In mess terminology, the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday was the ultimate trash day.
At the foot of that cross lay our every mess. It was a virtual dumping ground of self-centeredness, secret sins, devious desires, brutal ambition, violence, lies, haughtiness, quiet callousness and outright hatred. He bore the penalty of our mess as though it were his own.
This Easter, Christians worldwide will celebrate that Christ paid the price for our garbage and rose victorious over sin and death. We celebrate an undeserved cleaning of the deepest dirt and grime completely washed away. Our mess has been replaced by God’s offer of all things new: new hearts, new lives, new beginnings.
Easter morning? Hope beyond the mess, the ultimate clean sweep.