Not too long ago, we were sitting in the living room waiting for a friend to arrive for a visit. The weather outside was beautiful.
A bright beautiful day with a cloudless blue sky overhead, leaves waving in the breeze and sunlight streaming in through the storm window on the front door.
We don’t often just sit in the living room. We have other rooms for living, like the kitchen, the family room, the study, the porch, but the “living room” rather gets left out, except that sometimes we walk through it on the way to the kitchen and, less often, I stop and play the piano that resides there.
As I was sitting in the living room that day, I glanced around the room and thought how nice it looked. Things that usually were balanced on overcrowded end tables had been removed and the dining room table was clear of the mess that comes from being the first flat surface that you encounter once the outside door is opened. We never use the front door, so it was unusual on this day that it would be open, but we were waiting for our friend to arrive.
As the sun made its journey toward the horizon, its rays that were streaming into the room began to illuminate the side of the piano and I was struck at how nice the piano looked. I glanced at my watch and, after a moment, looked up. As the laws of nature would have it, the sun’s beams were no longer at the piano’s side, but now were marching steadily across the front of the piano. To my horror, what had appeared to be such rich woodwork, and what had induced my smug pleasure at such a nice looking room, revealed instead a thick film of dust covering the piano’s surface.
You may not have had this experience, but this was the type of dust that you could print your name, date and then sign it and still have some left over. I let out a visceral screech and my beloved husband said “What?” [Of course, he did not notice the dust from his angle at the other side of the room.]
I was envisioning my friend’s imminent arrival with me scrambling with the dusting spray and cloth, plunging them into my pants pocket so she would not notice when she arrived … of course, at the time I had a broken ankle and I was not able to rush to do anything and, at that moment, I was incapable of even giving my beloved a coherent response. I sat there pointing to the dust, and ultimately I was able to “suggest” that we get the cloth and wipe down the furniture in the living room ASAP! (Of course, the “we get the cloth” under the circumstances actually meant that “he get the cloth” and quickly remove the offending dust.)
After our visiting guest had gone home, I wondered how the piano could have gotten that dusty when it looked great as I passed it earlier in the afternoon. Of course the answer is that it had been dusty then too, but the light of the sun did not illuminate it until later in the day.
That led me to recognize that my life is like the piano. I can look fine on the outside. I clean up and dress appropriately; I say the right words and do the right things. I look great, in fact … but when the Son’s light shines on me and my actions, words and thoughts, what it reveals is a bunch of filthy rags.
The prophet Isaiah said: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Isaiah 64:6 [ESV] The King James Version of the Bible translates this verse as saying that our righteous deeds are like “filthy rags.”
Jesus referenced this situation in Matthew 23:27 when, speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, he said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
The brilliance of our Lord and His Spirit shining into our hearts, minds and souls reveals the dust of sin and the dirt of evil that lurks in the cracks and crevasses of our being. Absent the light, we look pretty good and we can fool ourselves into believing that all is right. We may even be tempted to think that Jesus is sure lucky to have us as His representatives in this cold hard world!
Perish that thought. We need His light to shine into our being and expose us for the dusty, dirty, sinful creatures that we are. Then we need to confess our arrogance and pride, and ask for forgiveness for forgetting that we have no good in us, not even one speck. See Psalm 14:3: “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
Thank you, Lord, for showing me the dust on the piano and, far more importantly, for uncovering the filth in my own heart and soul. Cleanse me and wash me; then I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7
In Your Holy Name I pray, Amen.