Create in Me a Clean Heart
Over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on the image of a heart, my heart specifically. I've brought many questions to prayer:
"Lord, how do you see my heart?"
"Lord, why do these scars on my heart still pain me?"
"Father, how do I make my heart reflect the goodness of yours"?
One morning I was praying through the daily readings. Psalm 51 struck me, which reads, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore me to the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit". I had heard this Psalm many times before. However, because I had been praying so intentionally about the image of my own heart, I realized this Psalm was the Lord's answer to my questions and prayers.
There is something both profound and straightforward in a "clean heart" imagery. In a literal way, "clean" implies that there must be work done to "clean" something dirty or broken. In pondering the cleaning process, I can't help but think about the pot of sauce I spent almost twenty minutes scrubbing the other evening after dinner. Well, to be honest, it was a few hours after dinner. It had been a long day, and I really just wanted to eat my pasta and go read a book. I told myself that I would come back down and wash it later after a quick break. I finally dragged myself back downstairs to find that the stains on the pot had become stiff, hard and worst of all, crusty. I knew I was in for some serious dishwashing labour. If I had only washed the pot immediately after dinner and dealt with the mess right away, the stains would have been cleaned much more smoothly, gently and quickly. However, it took me triple the time because I ignored the mess. It also involved some serious elbow grease and effort to clean it again.
I think this same reality applies to the idea of the Lord creating a "clean heart" in us. The longer we wait to present our stained, messy and broken hearts to the Lord, the more intense the "cleaning" process will be. Psalm 51 is a prayer of invitation, a prayer to invite the Lord into the problem of sin in our lives, of unforgiveness, or whatever our "stains'" are. To let Him create in us a clean heart, a deep clean that only He can do for us. Yes, it may be painful as He scrapes away at the dirt and grime we have ignored and pushed away out of fear, and yes, it may take time. But our Lord is so loving, gentle and patient with our needs. In the end, our hearts will come out free to serve the Lord in a profoundly "new and right" way.
My metaphor of dirty dishes fails, however, because the process of physically cleaning involves removing and entirely eradicating the stains and dirt. However, our hearts are more precious to the Lord than simple pots and pans. No, rather than removing, our Lord is RESTORING; He is bringing us into the "joy" of His salvation once more. He is letting our brokenness and messiness become part of His grander plan for salvation. Jesus is commissioning us to go and share with others that He saved us from our shared human sins and failings and that He desires to do the same for every person. He knows that while our failings and scars do not define us, they can help us identify with others who desire to be "cleaned" and free from the chains of sin in their own lives! This free gift compels us to go out and share this Good News with each and every person we meet.
We need a Saviour who will deep clean our hearts for us. We need a Father who will lovingly work away at the stains on our hearts, whispering words of encouragement and hope along the way.
Lord, create in me a clean heart today, create in us clean hearts that are free to do Your will and serve Your Kingdom here on earth.