The kitchen windows of our home face west, offering an afternoon sun shine that is warm and bright on our backyard view, and on the toddlers giggling their way down the slide and crashing the toy car into the fence. It also means that in the hours before dinner each day, the natural light flowing through my home is radiant. Everything glows with the warmth of sunshine, and my kitchen table becomes a welcome spot to take in the golden hues that our view to the west offers.
But this same light that I love and look forward to each day, it also makes me just a little bit crazy. The brightness that gently illuminates my home shows me every mark of filth in the room. Each fingerprint on the stainless steel refrigerator seems to grow, a dead give away that the toddlers have been attempting to help themselves to chocolate milk. Soft water rings dance around the counter, reminding me of all the places I set down my drink without a coaster. And every inch of un-dusted table space appears seemingly out of nowhere; the more I wipe it off, the more I find. A home that felt somewhat clean in the muted air of the early hours suddenly feels impossibly dirty as the light shines on it. I love the gift of the sun’s rays. I savor them each and every afternoon that the weather is kind enough to let them in. Still, I simply cannot clean my home enough to handle their revealing power.
I think that my heart looks a lot like my kitchen on a sunny afternoon.
Jesus is an alluring figure. As he walked the streets of the Holy Land people could not help but be drawn to him. Who was this man healing the sick and speaking of a kingdom yet to come; of a Father not here in the world but watching from a throne in heaven? All who came near him saw themselves differently; no one could be so close to Perfection itself without feeling their hearts react to its presence. But the reactions to Him were not universal; they were, and are, indicators of just how much of a dirty home one is willing to show others.
The proud and self-sufficient crowd recoiled in pride that this man was offering the goodness they thought they could achieve on their own. They approached him first with passive aggressive debates, and then with hostile false accusations of wrongdoing. When Jesus’ words revealed in their hearts a pride that they could not stand to be found out, their defense was anger. The light shined on their filth, and they accused the light of lying.
But the humble and desperate groups saw Jesus differently. They found in his presence a longing for what he offered, even at the cost of admitting that they had no ability to manufacture it themselves. Instead of holding up their own worth, with trembling in their voice they said things like the centurion did in Matthew 8 (v. 8): “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Their response was one of meekness; a state of gratitude and wonder— not to be confused with weakness, though the world might give them the same connotation. When the light of Jesus shined on them, they saw their filth and instead of hiding it, they begged Jesus to clean it, offering to him genuine responses and sentiments of “I am not worthy. You are, though.”
Our lives are not so different from the masses that met Jesus. We, too, will encounter this man in our lives, and the closer we get, the more dirt we will see. Living our lives at a distance from Jesus, sin looks like innocent, fun, short-lived moments of indulgence that don’t really hurt anyone. It is easy to disconnect our daily comings and goings from scripture and settle in to a life of self-sufficiency. But when we press in to him, when we meet him in the pages of our Bibles, our sin looks like what it really is: damaging, painful, and with often long-term consequences for our lives and others. And more importantly, our sin is what keeps us from Jesus, both now and eternally. The light reveals what is really there; that is its primary function. And the closer we get to it, the more clearly we can see. Even places deep in our heart that we thought were worth offering to the Lord, the seemingly righteous acts we want to be proud of, in the light of a perfect Jesus we see they are actually thick with dust bunnies that we cannot, for all of our effort, get clean enough.
We have two options when in the presence of such revealing light: we can do what the Pharisees did, close all the window shades in the room, insist that we worked very hard to clean up on our own, and stand proudly behind our dimly lit lives. We may know that by doing so we are refusing to enjoy all the warmth that the light has to offer, and that anyone we invite in will only see a sterile version of our hearts. But we do not step into the freedom playing in the sunlight offers because the thought of being truly seen for the mess that we are is terrifying. We all default to wanting praise, to desiring the applause of men, and to being built up by others for all that we have accomplished. It takes a great amount of humility to hold this truth: we can work our entire lives to build a reputation or make ourselves presentable, but outside of the glory it brings Jesus it is of no lasting value and offers us no advantage, no high ranking, no more approval than anyone in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Or, we can respond with gratitude. We can look at all that is revealed and say, “open the windows even more and clean this all, Lord! I want the freedom to be seen as a sinner so that I can enjoy my Savior.” We don’t have to dwell on all that we cannot achieve on our own or on all the places we have failed to present ourselves right before God. There will always be rooms we cannot get clean enough, because no one could keep the law, and no one is righteous on her own. But Jesus says this: “My Father is not looking at the dirt you missed; he’s looking at me.” Jesus is the only example of perfect that the world has ever known. And his perfection is a threat to the proud, to those who do not want to admit their insufficiency and see the very real impacts of sin. But to the humble, Jesus is the answer to our insufficiency, the welcome reprieve from the façade of keeping up the appearance of a clean life when we know deep down the dirt that’s really there. He is the only peace in the chaos. He is the only joy in our sorrow. He is the only thing that makes real sense in a world that we will always feel just a little bit out of place in. He is the only One that calm our hearts when they ask, "Is this really all there is?"
No, friend. This is far from all there is.
Each sunny afternoon as I both bask in the sunshine and shake my head a bit at the true state of my home, I’m learning in those moments that where I decide to look makes all the difference, and I want to look at the light. Constantly thinking of myself, and how I can attempt to hide the dust in my heart, keeps me busied with the wrong things; the futile building of a moment of recognition today when the joy of eternity is the only thing that will sustain me. And if someone were to walk in to my home, my prayer is that as I guide them to the back of the house, I would not apologetically interject my disclaimers of “Please excuse the dirty counters,” or “I haven’t had a chance to wipe down the refrigerator yet!” But rather, I would point straight out the windows and say, “How beautiful is that light!”