At Sunshine Bible Academy each student participates in a “gratis” program. Gratis, of course, means “free,” but through this program students have areas which they are responsible for helping to keep the school neat and clean. Some students clean classrooms, some take out trash, some help in the kitchen and the scullery, others clean staff offices. One of the juniors is responsible for cleaning several staff offices, including mine.
Initially, I’ll admit, this took me some getting used to. I have never had someone regularly clean my office for me before. Once in a while someone might take the trash out for me if all of the trash was being emptied, but as often as not I would do that myself. I usually vacuumed my own floor, and (eventually) did my own dusting. (Actually, my wife has been known to dust my office for me on occasion, too). But now, at least twice a week, Shanna comes into my office to clean. Some days she just takes the trash out, but sometimes she will dust, sweep or mop, too.
When the day came that she was ready to mop for the first time Shanna asked me, as politely as possible, “Can you please leave so that I can mop?” If I stayed at my desk she could not clean everything properly–she would not have been able to get under my desk, for example, and even behind my desk it would have been inconvenient to work around me. I have joked with Shanna that she is the only person in the whole school who can kick the superintendent out of his own office. Of course, I could have said no, and refused to leave, but by doing so I would have prevented a thorough cleaning–meaning there would still have been some “mess” in my office. In fact, that mess probably would have been even more noticeable because everything else would have been so clean.
I recently realized that this is a perfect metaphor for what Christ wants to do in my life–and yours. Through the Holy Spirit, He wants to clean out the dirt and dust and trash in my life and make me clean. In order to do that completely, though, He asks me to get out of the way. To give up my claim to my life and let Him do what need to be done. Quietly, He asks me to “please leave.” Just like with my office, I could choose to stay. As amazing as it is, I have the power–as do you–to tell Almighty God, “No, I’m not budging. You can clean over there if you want to, and it’s fine to take the trash out, but I’m keeping this drawer and this area here just the way it is. Don’t touch it.”
When Shanna asks me to leave my office it is so that she can clean completely. If I refuse to go, she will still clean, but her job will be incomplete. Truth be told, though, most of what she will not be able to clean will not be visible to anyone else, because it will be behind and underneath my desk. Similarly, I often allow the Holy Spirit free access to those parts of my life that everyone else will see because I don’t want them to see my dirt and dust. I want them to see me shiny and polished. I kinda like to keep the area under my desk to myself, though. After all, no one is going to see it, and I’m just not sure I’m ready to yield that part of my life to the Lord yet.
Just as Shanna would not physically evict me from my office, the Holy Spirit will probably let me keep that dirt and dust in my life for a while. If I am in a right relationship with the Lord, though, I won’t have peace about it. I will want to get out of the way and let Him do a thorough cleaning.
Also like my office, though, the dirt, dust and trash of life will accumulate again after a while. It isn’t a one-time cleaning. It needs to be done regularly in order to keep it clean. And just like I could agree to leave sometimes when Shanna asks me to, and say no other times, I might yield to the Spirit one time, and hold my ground the next. It’s a day by day, moment by moment decision. What is guaranteed is that the Spirit will be back soon, saying “please leave.” The question is how I will respond.