Deleavening Meditations, 2008

I had meant to post some of my lessons learned during deleavening our home this year before the Days of Unleavened Bread, just like I did last year (those posts: A list of lessons from this year’s deleavening; One more Unleavened Bread lesson!; Still one more lesson: Attack of the Unleavened Tacos). Regrettably, the time was just too hectic, and I did not get around to it. And I say that for selfish reasons, because when I write them down, they tend to linger longer in the memory–and that is the point: to make those lessons linger!

So, although the Days of Unleavened Bread are already well under way, I hope you will allow me to post some of my “deleavening” lessons here anyway. (And if you haven’t read last year’s posts, linked to above, then you might go check them out. Some of the thoughts I had this year were very similar to those noted last year, so I won’t repeat them here.)

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♦ This year, I was in charge specifically of removing leavening (remnants of bread, crumbs, etc.) from the living room, my office (ugh), and our two cars — the van and the Corolla. It was my goal to include the two younger boys — Boy #3, age 6, and Boy #4, age 4 — in the process. (Boy #1 & Boy #2 were old enough for some (generally) unsupervised deleavening responsibilities.)

In having the younger two, I was taken aback at how eager they were to jump right in! They didn’t just want to help–they had a real passion for it! For them it wasn’t a chore (and forgive my honesty, but it does feel that way for me at times), it was a cause — an adventure!

Noticing this, I was reminded of Jesus warnings to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2, where He says, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent” (vv. 4-5).

Has my passion for removing sin from my life lessoned as the way has grown long? Do I still approach it with the vigor and excitement of “first love” as I did at the beginning of my calling and my walk with God?

♦ Similar to the lesson I learned last year (and, frankly, have had emphasized to me every year), I noticed that there were crumbs–and, thus, leavening–deep in the fiber and material of the van and in inaccessible (though visible) places that I just was simply not going to be able to remove. The reminder that I need Christ to sanctify me and wash me clean, and that I cannot do it on my own, was–as usual–helpful and appreciated.

But I had another thought, too… I mean, I could go out and rent one of those super-duper, professional vacuums/cleaning machines for some extra cash. (Just a bit of second tithe, right?) That would get a lot of it out! And those inaccessible places–I could probably get create some plastic-sealed, water-flushing doohicky device (something that would make the Mythbusters proud) to power out those crumbs in the inaccessible chair joints. It might take an extra day or two, but it could be done, right?

But deep down, I know that wouldn’t get it all. So, I could dismantle the interior of the car, strip out the upholstery, and find a place where the material could be thoroughly soaked and chemically cleaned — or even strapped in place and exposed to a powerful wind tunnel, where the hurricane force gusts could help to reassure me that I have come as close as humanly possible to removing every last remnant of yeast.

I mean, even the yeast in the air could be reduced to a certain extent. I could borrow money (I have seriously dangerous credit limits) and buy the most advanced filters within my economic reach–of course, only after flushing the old air out of the van with a powered hose connected to several tanks of purified, “medical quality” air. Any openings which could not be governed by the filters could be hermetically sealed.

Humanly, I could do more to ensure that my van was as leaven-free as possible. Not perfect, of course, but as close to perfect as I could get it.

Well, there would always be the question: Could I have done more? I mean, my bank account is emptied, my credit cards maxed out, my ability to get loans exhausted, and it has taken three weeks, four days, and two-and-a-half hours, but… Maybe I could have had the kids work for extra money–a lot of sweat shops looking for work out there! I could have started earlier–like, right after Unleavened Bread 2007. I could have… Well, I could have done more, somehow.

I know, I have gone on WAY too long with this example. What’s the point? Am I trying to say that we shouldn’t strive to the utmost against sin? NO, not at all!

However, it is possible to become so focused on one particular area of sin and “righteous living” that other places in our lives suffer for it. Rather than taking wise and fruit-backed counsel concerning, say, how to properly observe the Sabbath, or obeying God’s laws of clean and unclean animals, we can rely on our own wisdom and standards of “righteousness” too much and turn narrow points of view on a handful of issues into “defining elements” of our faith, at the cost of other equally vital areas.

If I had obsessed so passionately about deleavening the van, what would I be leaving undone? My task leading up to this week was to deleaven my whole house, not just the van. What is the best and most profitable use of the effort I have to give? Should I abandon 99% of the task at hand, removing the leaven from our property (after all, my wife can do all that), so that I can devote more of my efforts to the 1% that somehow attracts me more, removing the leaven from our van? Of course not.

It reminds me that I don’t want to become so focused on any one aspect of the way of God that the others suffer. I don’t want to become so strict in my focus on a particular, narrow aspect of God’s laws (or, in reality, my view of those laws) that while on one hand I might be able to put the Pharisees to shame, on the other hand I destructively lack in other areas, to the spiritual detriment of myself and my family — successfully straining out the gnat while inattentively choking down a whole camel, a la Matthew 23:24.

Again, it is NOT that we should take a light view of sin, ever! But, it is possible for a quest to remove sin from our lives to turn into something else if we’re not careful. And swallowing camels is easier than it looks if you practice enough.

(OK, enough of this one. Sorry to go on so long, but it is one I thought about a LOT while vacuuming the van this year.)

♦ Our van has those really nice “Stow-N-Go” seats. If you need more room for something large and you don’t need the second or third row of seats, you can fold the seats into the floor (very nice!). But, if the seats are being used (and ours usually are), then the “floor bins” into which the seats can fold up–being empty–become excellent spaces for additional storage.

They also become great places for crumbs to fall. While vacuuming them this year, I thought to myself that once this new van showed up into our lives we gained whole new areas to inspect for leavening.

And that’s true spiritually with any new venture or opportunity in our lives. If someone, say, starts a business for the first time, they will encounter new situations that they may have never considered before from the perspective of sin and righteousness. They will be faced with new judgments to make, and new dilemmas to think through (and pray through!). Examining their lives, cf. 1 Cor. 11:28, for the presence of any sin that may have crept in will involve whole new dimensions. And that is good and right, even if it takes more effort.

♦ In cleaning the van and moving the Stow-N-Go seating around, there were moments when areas I had just vacuumed became, after a back and forth chair-folding session, covered with all new crumbs, as the stuff fell out of hidden crevasses and joints in the chairs.

That was a reminder to me that just because I have begun to see some improvement in some are of my life I shouldn’t think that sin can’t creep back in. A life of repentance is a life of diligence, for it is ever true that “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

♦ While I worked with Boy #3 and Boy #4, Boy #1 (10 years old) and Boy #2 (8 years old) had full responsibility for certain parts of the home, such as their room. Was it tempting to hover over them to ensure their diligence? Yes. Did I? No. They seemed to be taking it very seriously, and I wanted them to have good reason to feel that it was up to them to get the job done — especially in their own room.

The lesson? As much as I might want to some how do the “sin cleansing” for them, you can’t always do that — they’ve eventually got to learn to do it themselves. You have to train them as best you can, while you can, always mindful that you must eventually let them go. Ultimately, they can’t have a relationship with God “vicariously” through you — it’s got to be a one-on-one relationship between them and God, just as it has to be between you and God. Genesis 2:24 has its way of sneaking up on us, to be sure, and my task is to make sure that they are spiritually read for that moment, to the best of my ability.

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There were some additional lessons for me in this year’s work, to be sure, but (1) I’m getting tired and I’ve got to be in Branson tomorrow morning for the first of a number of meetings over the next few days (yes, more housing info should soon be available! for real!), and (2) time has dulled the memory enough that the lessons are fuzzy — all the more motivation for me to write them down earlier next time! Perhaps I will post again should they come to mind and seem worthwhile. Everyone is invited to share their own leaven/sin removing meditations in the comments below.

I will close, though, with two “lessons” that I “learned” while deleavening that really didn’t make the grade…

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♦ What happened: Boy #3 and Boy #4 were vacuuming parts of the Corolla and I was waiting for them to finish so that I could review their work and go over it myself. The “waiting” took the form of a few nice “near naps” in the warm sun while stretched out in the back of the van.

The (non-)lesson: If you get the chance to have others work on your sin for you while you relax and do nothing, that is a totally sweet arrangement. Sort of the “Jimmy Buffett” approach to removing sin, I would imagine…

♦ What happened: While vacuuming under the driver’s seat of the van, I discovered a still-vacuum packaged mozzarella “cheese stick” snack that had fallen down there some time ago. (No, I did not eat it.)

The (non-)lesson: Sometimes, when removing sin from your life, you come across cheese sticks.

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Sadly, yes, those thoughts really did cross my mind in each of those circumstances. But, hey–they can’t all be winners! 🙂

Sorry for rambling a bit tonight. I may not be able to write for a few days since I will be in Branson, so this may be the last entry for a little while. In the meantime, I hope that your cleaning for the Days of Unleavened Bread was spiritually profitable for you and your family, and that the rest of this week is equally so.

Just remember to keep your eyes open for cheese sticks.

4 thoughts on “Deleavening Meditations, 2008

  1. Points 3 & 4 above remind me of a lesson I learned the last year or two… Venting was such a part of my way of dealing with frustration before I realized that going too far with it can just regurgitate it repeatedly in my mind (yes, the acidity can be tasted) and cause me to only continue in frustration. It also easily leads to gossip when telling others not involved in the situation. I thought I had greatly diminished its presence in my life awhile back and was seeing the incredible fruits born from that. However, later, I began trying to help some friends out of some rough situations, and when they kept falling back into old habits and making the situation worse, I found myself once again venting to others about the situation. This time, I felt justified in doing so because I was helping them, which made it harder to see as the same old problem… I guess I more deeply learned your 5th point, too: let others grow at their own rate and just be around as support when needed.

    Thanks for the lessons, Mr. Smith!

  2. If you get the chance to have others work on your sin for you while you relax and do nothing, that is a totally sweet arrangement.

    I had a friend in the church years ago who actually seemed to take that approach. He called me several times during “cleaning season,” needing me to type “going to your brother” letters for other people. And they simply couldn’t wait until after Passover.

    There’s a lesson in that, of course — if anything can come along to get in the way of deleavening, it will. It happened to me again this year, as my employer suddenly needed me to work extra hours throughout the cleaning time.

    Another obvious lesson of your post consists of one simple word: prevention. Don’t let the sin in, in the first place. There will be less to clean up later.

  3. Deano

    Hello Mr. Smith,

    Thanks for this post.

    1, 2, 3, & 4 were all pretty meaningful to me. I really appreciate the application of #1 a lot. It’s so easy to take things for granted and get “comfortable” with where we’re at.

    Like Richard stated, I too seemed to be hammered with things that had to be done during my cleaning time.

    I guess the two main things that come to mind for me this year are that, 1) Sin is EVERYWHERE! Man, it seemed like I could not think of a place to eat that didn’t have bread. Maybe some places that “might not” or “probably didn’t”, but that’s not the same as “know for sure they don’t”. And along with that: what good places with great food that were passed by ~ lots of pleasurable food. I’m hungry thinking about it now in fact.

    And 2) Cleaning off black baked on crud in the stove from a years worth of pizzas 🙂 said a few things too. One, pizza is fairly addictive – so is sin. Two, the mess it leaves is really hard to remove – it clings. Three, it is really disgusting. Sin puffs up, but left unchecked or dealt with, it can also lead to scary black states. The longer ya leave it without dealing with it, the harder it is TO deal with when you finally decide to do so.

    Ok, I have probably said something that doesn’t make any sense by now so I’ll here leave off and go get something to eat.

    Cheers, Deano

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