My two younger brothers have been living with us for just about a week and not even too much longer, but both corralled into a small room already packed full of our things with the spare bathroom to share. I love my brothers, and this is not to share with you that they are these filthy creatures, but that we have two extra people staying with us and things are not the same as they normally are.
I have a very particular need for the house to have the slightest scent of bleach in the bathroom, no water spots to be seen, and basically for things to look the most perfect they can possibly be without looking too crazy. When things are out of order, this weird sort of clenching in my throat begins to well up, probably mimicking the way that if my hands were out in the open to say, “Lord, have your way,” they would start to close and weld together in the tightest fist possible.
We just so happened to be leaving for church as I begun to have this new-found adam’s apple in my windpipe. Guests were coming over right after church, and I hadn’t taken the time to make sure that things were in order. I began to spray down everything within my firing range with Febreze, making it well known to my brother and husband waiting at the door to leave for church that things were not right to my standards.
We got in the car and I begun my list of excuses. My husband, in his great wisdom simply said, “If the apartment needs to look a particular way whenever anyone comes over, you might want to check what we’re portraying to people as they come in.” All of the people who have kids then read that sentence and said, “amen.”
We got to church where our pastor opened our text up to Exodus 17.
He began to teach us about the setting of the desert, a place that Moses tells the people is a place where, “He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8) It can seem really cruel that God let them hunger in order to feed them something different, but then the age old adage was quoted:
“God took the Israelites out of Egypt, but they still needed the Egypt to get out of the Israelites.”
I have heard that many times before, but as the question began to be asked of what might we still be enslaved to, I thought of the conversation in the car just minutes before. Although it’s socially acceptable to have a clean house and to bring people into that space, the ways that this standard I have created for myself has enslaved me and has told me that only if I present the perfect, picturesque home and self will I be accepted and acceptable to others. How might simply the tightening of my gullet not only point to that, but maybe even to the way I approach God, creating a standard for myself that I will never measure up to when I already have full acceptance in His Son?
My performance and acceptance idols were in clear view at that point to me and before the Lord. In ways that I have found them to still be a part of my life where it doesn’t seem so overt, I have kept them and hoarded them as a source of comfort and control instead of trusting my standing as found in Christ.
The beauty of the rest of the passage in Exodus 17 is that it is the gospel. For one, if you haven’t found a church that doesn’t preach the gospel explicitly every week, that is reason enough to go elsewhere. For two, the gospel is exactly the power I needed to not only loosen my grip, but to cling to the true Rock.
The overwhelming depth of God’s provision in the giving of Himself will never get old, and will always bring with it streams of grace and love abundant. I will need this reminder everyday, and needed it again as one of our guests went into the spare bathroom an hour later. He is enough, and no amount of Clorox clean-up and fresh smells can buy the favor of God and even those dear to us.
Drink deeply of the fount that flows from the Rock. It will satisfy your soul.