Thoughts on Cleaning Up

Last weekend, I cleaned off my back porch. That might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but considering I haven’t done it in a long time, and also considering that I have five children who like to use that back porch for all sorts of adventures1, this achievement was long overdue.

After performing the cursory clean up and sweeping everything off, I got ready to pull out the garden hose and wash off the residual sidewalk chalk art when I noticed other areas on the concrete that needed more serious attention: grease stains from food spills, drips from our barbecue grill, and a large spot where wax had pooled after I left a candle on our outdoor table last Summer. I thought about my previous attempts with the garden hose and realized it wasn’t going to cut it. This concrete pad needed a serious clean, with the right tool. I had seen YouTube videos of pressure washers doing wonders to driveways… perhaps that was the tool for the job.

That afternoon, at our local hardware store, I noticed they had this nice-looking electric pressure washer. So I purchased it, hurried home with the rest of my hardware store purchases, and quickly assembled the machine so I could test it out on my back porch. After trying out the different nozzles and settings, I found the pressure washer could definitely deal with sidewalk chalk art much more efficiently than my garden hose. But those grease stains from the grill? Not so much. I’m sad to say my attempts at removing the wax spot didn’t fare much better. It could be my pressure washer doesn’t have the “oomph” to cut it2, and it could also be that I left those stains out there baking in the sun for years. Even after another trip to a different store for some concrete detergent, I still wasn’t able to make my back patio look as pristine as I had expected.

This experience reminded me of something I had read in Jeremiah 2, in relation to cleaning up sin:

Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.

- Jeremiah 2:22 (ESV)

Even though I got a pressure washer and gave it my best shot at cleaning up the back porch, those stains are still there. It may be a bit of a stretch, but the analogy rings clear for me: all my own efforts to clean off my sin won’t clear away the stain. Nothing I can acquire, buy, or muster up is sufficient to clean up the mess of sin in my life. Of course, I’m not attempting to use real soap (or a pressure washer for that matter) to clean up my sin; but I have tried behavior modification, a better routine, even a careful confession ritual. Try as I might, the stain of my guilt is still before God. The only answer is a complete replacement of my sin-stained, filthy clothes with clean garments, as described in Zechariah 3:1-5. The one Person with clothes that are unstained from this life is Jesus, and he freely offers His righteousness to anyone who will believe in Him.

The answer to my sin problem (and yours!) is not in trying harder, getting more or better soap, or working on consistent self-improvement. No, the answer is only found in trusting in Jesus for His perfect righteousness and atonement on our behalf. Jesus lived the perfect life we should have lived, died a terrible death we deserved to die, experiencing the horrors of separation from God on our behalf, and then conquered death by rising from the dead. He is the only way to be right with God.

  1. Most of these adventures involve sidewalk chalk, dirt, rocks, and occasionally LEGO. Rarely does the sidewalk chalk stay on the concrete. ↩︎

  2. I wasn’t expecting that this pressure washer was the top-of-the line model, and it definitely has its limitations. You get what you pay for, I guess. ↩︎