Howdy! Every year during the Days of Unleavened Bread (or more specifically, leading up to them), I like to reflect on what I learned through the meditative exercise of deleavening. That is, getting the leaven out of your home is a picture of removing sin, and the act of going through the house and the cars, cleaning and dusting, generally provides numerous moments every year to reflect on the process we are symbolically picturing: of removing sin from our lives.
I used to do a very good job of writing these down every year, but I have grown more lax as the years have worn on. But, perhaps this blog can help motivate me to begin again! Actually, I was thinking that next year I could serialize my lessons, one for each of the seven days, but given that this is Day 4 it’s a little late to do so this year…
So, here are some of the lessons I learned from this year’s round of deleavening. I will number the list, mainly because I like numbering things. [EDIT: I have replaced the numbering with bulleting, as the numbering format did not do so hot…]
(And, before I start — yes, I know that some of these “lessons” will seem trite or obvious, but even in those cases they are helpful reminders. Failing to review the obvious sometimes causes it to seem less obvious as time goes by.)
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• I already mentioned in a previous post one lesson which was taught to me by my son (Boy #1), when I was going to ignore some dust under a VCR, and he admonished me with “Dad, if we’re getting sin out, we want to get it all.” (Warning: Teach your kids the truth at your own risk…) He was, of course, right.
(By the way, for those who don’t know: The Days of Unleavened Bread are generally times of “spring cleaning,” since we are trying to deleaven (remove any leavening from) our entire dwelling — including, for instance, those sneaky little crumbs that fall between the sofa cushions. Being thorough involves a good bit of dusting!)
• I think I have also mentioned this one, but I am not sure and I am feeling too lazy (or perhaps, “strategically unmotivated”) to search through my posts to see… We noted that the last few years I have not been as much a part of the deleavening as I used to be, and my participation had begun to center on simply my office and the cars, leaving her and the boys to do the rest. Well, this year we decided to rectify that (and husbands/dads out there — I hope you do the same if it applies!) and I had a bigger role. We divvied up the rooms, so I had a larger share of the responsibility and we did more together like we had done before.
That said, I discovered how rusty I had become in some ways. After “finishing” the living room, I discussed the work with my wife, who kindly and gently (and I might add “knowingly”) asked: Did you do such-and-such? Did you consider this-and-that? (etc.) Needless to say, I had not done such-and-such, and I certainly did not consider this-and-that. So, off to redo the job I went!
The lesson that impressed itself on my mind from this was how easy it is to get out of practice in fighting sin. If we sort of allow ourselves the “luxury” of stepping out of the ring, as it were, for a time, it’s easy to lose our edge, and when we get back in the ring we might have a bit of rust to knock off of our joints and take a few blows before we get our rhythm back. (Did that make sense? Did I mix any metaphors? Captain English Teacher, where are you?) Anyway, the point is that struggling against sin is one thing that we don’t want to get out of practice doing.
• On the flip side of that same experience, my wife learned something, too. (Actually, I’m sure she learned a lot of things–I just happened to be there for this one!) As we were cleaning our bedroom and I was vacuuming under the bed, my wife kept thinking to herself, “Why is he doing it that way? It would be better to do it this way…” Yet, she had to admit that the job was getting done, and there are times when it’s best not to interfere and “help.”
Yet, I will add that there were other times when what I was doing was horribly ineffective and wasn’t going to get the job done (actually, it would have gotten done… maybe before the Fall holy days…). At those times, she helpfully stepped in to point something our to me and I, in humility (I hope!), took her advice.
The lesson here seemed to be one of balance and judgment. We have all sorts of passages in the Bible that can advise us concerning the matter of a brother or sister dealing with sin (e.g., Matthew 7:1-5, Galatians 6:1-5, James 5:19-20, 1 John 5:16, Jude 22, et al.). But all of them require good judgment and discernment. It is very easy to offend in one’s effort to be helpful, and it is not entirely right to simply say, “Well, he/she shouldn’t have been offended! I was just trying to help!” Close relationships help, and thankfully my wife and I seem to have one of those. “Helping” someone else in dealing with their sin is a task not to be entered into lightly and without prayer! And if there is not already a close relationship there to act as a foundation, it will bear questionable fruit.
Yet when it is a matter of two individuals of closely knit heart and humble attitude, the blessing of a shared burden can be great indeed, and the sharing of the burden can make all the difference sometimes.
• In cleaning the van out (and was the van ever “crumby”!), I really banged my knee against a metal plate sticking out of the floor. WOW that hurt! Sometimes when my kids “threaten” me with something (say, a pillow), I remark that I’m not too worried since the object doesn’t seem to be made out of kryptonite. Well, the plate I hit my knee on was obviously 100% kryptonite, and I spent the next two or three minutes rolling around holding my knee and moaning. (I must add that my pain tolerance is not the highest on the planet.)
Well, sometimes when we strive against sin, it hurts. Actually it usually hurts at least a little, even if not at first. But sometimes it hurts a LOT! Hebrews even says at one place, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). (Or the ESV translation: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”) The pain doesn’t change God’s commands, nor does it change the blessing that comes from the struggle — and so struggle through it, we do. (But I’m going to remember that metal plate next year!)
• Some of the crumbs in the van seemed completely and absolutely inaccessible. Until — voila! — my wife brought out some other vacuum attachments. Then all of a sudden the tight nooks and crannies made no difference.
Sometimes in fighting sin, we need to take a different approach — get some new advice, try something different, seek more counsel. (Ignoring it is not a different approach…)
• Yet for all of our cleaning, some leavening still remains. I know it’s there, ground deep into the carpet of the van, or laying in some crack in the baseboard of the living room.
And, with sin, we have to recognize that it’s removal from our lives is not all up to us. Hardly! If it were, the situation would be hopeless. But it’s not! Jesus Christ died so that we would be forgiven of the sins we can’t go back and undo, and the sins we, even now, continue to slip up and commit. Further still, He lives His life again in us (Galatians 2:20), helping us to walk righteously and to grow in grace and knowledge so that while we were justified and reconciled by His death, we will be saved by His life (Rom. 5:10). We do our part, yes, but we do so with the joyful assurance that it is not all up to us!
• Lastly, I discovered while vacuuming the van my tendency to constantly go over the same places, over and over — places which looked perfectly clean and which should have been clean, because I had given them ample attention. Yet, I kept returning to them, over and over again.
Doing this, I reflected on a tendency I have sometimes to either chastise myself for past sin that I know God has forgiven and that I really do know I have left behind, or to fret over some area of my life that, in all actuality, is doing “just fine.” The time and effort spent “fretting” could be better spent in more valuable ways — tackling real sin instead of refighting the “ghosts” of departed sins. (This lesson may not make sense to many of you, but it does to me, which is ultimately what counts since it was my lesson, right?)
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And, that’s it for now. Actually, that’s probably it until next year. I’m sure that more lessons will present themselves (and, indeed, there are some I haven’t listed), but I’ve got to stop somewhere!
I hope that you are having a very meaningful Days of Unleavened Bread and that the unleavened goodies that you have been enjoying taste as great as the ones my wife has been making. Remember, we’re not just avoiding leavening (sin) but we are also daily taking in unleavened bread (Jesus Christ, the bread of life!). The best way to remove air from a glass is to fill it with something else…
Have a wonderful Sabbath tomorrow!