Stained Pages, Changed Lives
Jun 24, 2018 05:35AM
● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
One of my children will not read books from the library if he finds any evidence of "visible" germs, food stains, or mold in them. It should come as no surprise to me, then, when we put a book on hold, pick it up, only to discover it is "unreadable"—well, from his perspective anyway.
On one level, it makes sense, right? If someone has gone before us, and his or her pizza grease or coffee stains are splattered across the pages, it might become just a little too real for us that several people before us have held and read that book. We know it, but it’s a different matter altogether when we are wondering if those are indeed sneeze marks and where this book has traveled while in another library patron’s possession.
I could shudder just thinking about that.
I think about this on entirely different level, too. When I consider what about my own history I want to share with my children, I want to spare them the places where brokenness reigned. I tell them to skip this mud puddle or that pothole as they journey through life—to not make the mistakes I did. Learn from my history. Take the road tread ahead of you. When you open the pages of your own story, may each page be fresh and untainted by me or the generations before you. Simply learn from them.
But that’s not how it goes, does it? Our messy lives are road maps for others. The splashes and tire marks that indicate we were there, present, alive, and making mistakes can’t be erased. To some extent, we want our children to see those stains so they can take a better route. The stains of pain, conflict, poor decisions, past failures, and misled travels need to be visible to the next generation. Like the pages of a well-worn library book, this generation will add their own color, age, and folds to the pages. Life this side of heaven is tainted, blemished, and showing its age—just like these books that often come home with us after being in many other homes.
Did you know this is what Jesus did for us? He came to earth a perfect man who could have sinned, for He was tempted as we were.
Hebrews 4:15, ESV
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus willingly walked into our stains, taking them upon Himself once and for all, so that we might be washed clean before the Father. An entirely brand-new book with pages for God to write on in our lives!
2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When the Apostle Paul addressed the early church in Ephesus, he instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church presenting her “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”
This was possible because of what Christ did on the cross for us, His bride.
Ephesians 5:25-27, ESV
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
When my children see the pages of my life’s story unfold before them, and even historically through what I share—the bumps and abrasions on my life and psyche—I want them to see the covering of Christ over all of them.
So, how does that happen exactly?
1 John 1:7-10, ESV
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
According to 1 John, we should not pretend we aren’t sinners. We should openly confess our sins believing in the forgiveness that He promises to those who trust in Him. One of the roles of the Word of God is to cast light over any darkness we may be walking in. To show us our stains.
Our pages are dirty from sin and unrighteousness. We cannot write our own story successfully and remain unblemished.
But we can invite Jesus into our story as we “get real” about the junk we have dropped all over the clean pages He wants for us. We can testify to others, especially the next generation, that our stains were there, but in Christ, they are no more.
This is a call to all Christian believers to stop putting out an image of perfection. Our cleansing comes from Christ alone. We must admit that our pages are dirty, and while not everyone needs to know which stains are there, they do need to know Christ is why our story can now continue covered in His righteousness.
Like my son asking me to return the old, germy library book for a newer version so that he can enjoy it to its fullest, how very fresh our life story reads when we continue to submit it under the authority of Christ!
I leave you with this psalm of King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. It’s a fantastic example of the way God cleanses and purifies us. Once we ask Him to do this, the imprint of His goodness in our lives tells its own story as those around us pick up our book and see the mighty works that God has done.
Psalm 51, ESV
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.