Fresh and Clean as a Whistle

Fresh and clean as a whistle

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

   remove the evil of your doings

   from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

17   learn to do good;

seek justice,

   rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

   plead for the widow.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,

   says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

   they shall be like snow;

though they are red like crimson,

   they shall become like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

   you shall eat the good of the land;

Isaiah 1:16-20

I used to make a decent amount of money detailing cars.  By decent I mean $60.00 for two hours of work.  My boss at the gas station where I worked mad fun of me for detailing the cars for so little.

"They charge a minimum of $100.00 at Ziebart," he chided. 

"Well you're the one paying $40.00 more for a job I could do for less," I thought.

I didn't say that because even though it was only work at a gas station it was my primary source of income at the time.  I didn't point out that most people don't own two gas station franchises and have $100.00 of luxury income to spend on a car detailing. 

I loved maintaining a clean car.  Earning money to do something I loved was a joy.  I didn't take a ton of time on my first car even though it was a yellow 'Vette.  It's because it was a Chevette, not a CORvette.  It boasted 72hp and the patented uni-speak stereo system.  The uni-speak consisted of one 4X6 speaker in the top center part of the front dash.  Think hidden transistor radio.

It wasn't until I got a 1989 Chevy Cavalier though that I detailed cars with passion.  I treated that car as though it were a Ferrari.  I kept it spotless.  I would slow down when I saw even a trickle of water from a hose in the road so that it wouldn't splatter on the wax finish I spent so much time on that day.  Yeah I was THAT guy.

I remember once a woman I was dating rolled down the window of a car I had just washed and I got annoyed because I had to get out and dry the window again.  There's a song called Johnny's Camaro by David Wilcox that takes on this issue quite well. Johnnys Camaro 

After children, and full-time employment my car cleaning habits have changed radically.  I'm lucky to get all of the Happy Meal residue out from under my seats once every three months.  The car I drive now smells like sweat and stale french fries.  This is an upgrade from when our youngest daughter had spilled milk from a sippy cup on the back seat.  I have black interior so we found out about it only after the car was filled with the pungent smell of curdled milk.  On the bright side Sarah and I got to play our favorite game named by Dave Attell "Find the Smell". 

I realized that no matter how hard I try or tried to keep blemishes, lint, water spots, bird bombs, and smells off of or out of my car that keeping it perfect was impossible. 

The same is true of human behavior.  No matter how hard we try to be perfect it isn't possible.  In my faith tradition of Christianity we believe that humanity is sinful no matter what. Sin for the simplicity of making my point is any thought, word, or deed that breaks right relationship with God, self, others, or creation.  Right relationship is a relationship centered on and involves a healthy exchange of love.  Defining love here is just as impossible as trying to keep a car perfectly clean.  Read 1 Corinthians 13 for a decent start. Back to my point.

If we are not in right relationship with our selves it is sinful, if we are not in right relationship with God it is sinful, this hold true for relationships with others and creation as well.  The dilemma is that we aren't capable of living in right relationships on our own.  It requires the perfect love of God.  No matter how hard we try to scrub away those parts of us that make us difficult to love, no matter how much shine we try to put on our behaviors, we still need the only thing that can cleanse our hearts and minds, the Grace of God.  That Grace of God is the limitless love and forgiveness given freely to all of humanity.  We can't earn it no matter how much detail we spend on our behavior.

When God give us this Grace we are invited to accept it and share the good news of it with others.

This can't happen if we pretend to live a perfect life.  If we put on a show of our faith, or take great care in appearing as perfect as we can on the outside while all the while our inside has not been cleaned by the love of God, then our lives are not an authentic representation of Christianity and what it means to be human. 

Obviously not everyone is Christian, or believes in the doctrine of sin.  However all of us know what it is to be in relationship with others.  When we are honest about all that is not perfect in our character and have compassion and empathy for others who are also imperfect, we are open to loving relationships even if we don't call that love Grace.

I'm grateful God gives us this perfect unconditional, unearned love.  Spit shining a soul would take FOREVER.  Isaiah tells us God does it for us.  We are invited to examine our behavior honestly and seek how we can treat the most vulnerable well, and how we can improve how we behave.  Ultimately God redeems and makes up the difference between our ideal selves and our actual selves.  What a gift!

If you want to have some fun I invite you to go to Advance Auto Parts and ask "Could you tell me where I can find soul wax?  Yeah I want water to bead up on my spirit." 

"Do you have Armor All I can spray on my conscience?  I like it to have a really clear coated conscience."

Don't really do that.  You could get carried away in a nice shiny ambulance to a local mental health facility.