Do you ever feel like your "wrong choices" are just staring you in the face all the time? You try to move on, but they just keep "getting in your grill". No amount of "soaking" in our pity seems to take the stain of these choices away, does it?
Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I've been; my sins are staring me down. (Psalm 51:1-3 The Message)
We need God to "wipe out" our bad record, don't we? When we think of the term "wipe out", we are drawn to the idea of giving a clear and decisive victory over something - so utterly destroying its effect that we no longer are pestered by the silly thing. On another hand, when we think of a "wipe out" in terms of our own actions, we are saying to God, "I have pretty much made a failure of things here." Does it surprise you to see David asking God to "wipe out" his "wipe out"? He wants all the hurt and mess he is in to be finally and totally gone! Annihilated - done in - no longer staring him down! Try as we might, we have the worst time trying to cover up our sin! It seems to stare us down at every turn.
David also presents a couple of great "word picture" when he asks God to "scrub away his guilt" and to "soak out his sins in the laundry". We have lost the concept of "scrubbing" our laundry because we don't do our laundry by hand anymore. In the times David penned these words, the "stains" did not come out because of some "magic" spray treatment and high efficiency washer. The cloth had to be rubbed back and forth on a rough surface (like a wash board or stone), sometimes long and hard, until the stain was gone. The process involved not only the rough surface, but a whole lot of "dunking" into the rinse water until the stain was no longer visible.
Now, take this idea into consideration as it applies to the guilt or shame of our actions. God may have to pass us a couple of times over some "rough surfaces" in order to begin the process of removing the stain of our sin. Until the memory associated with our sin is "undone", it will always be a "stain".
In the passage through some "rough patches" in life, we often find the stain becoming more evident - not less! Yet, the bringing of the stain to the surface through the rough spots is actually allowing him to wash it free by the rinsing of his Word and his grace. The Word acts as the "soaking" which begins to "lift away" the stain. The passage of his hands over and over again of our lives may seem a little like we are being passed over some rough spots again and again, but it is always done with the end in mind - the stain being finally and completely removed!
The rinse process never removes the soiling. It takes the combined action of the passage over the rough surface (a little elbow-grease, if you will), and the rinsing which accomplishes the "cleansing" of the stain. The deeper the stain, the longer it may need to be passed over the rough surface and dunked in the cleansing rinse water! God could apply some "miracle stain remover" in our lives, instantly taking away the stains of our sin, but I wonder if we'd really learn anything in the process?
It is often in the "process" of experiencing the stain removal that we "connect" the action of the stain with the action of grace. I often have to take extra time to remove a little spilled food or ground in dirt from our clothing. If I relied on the laundry detergent alone to remove them, I'd have only half-gone stains! It is like relying on my own efforts to remove the guilt and shame of my sin. I cannot put in some "detergent" and walk away. To expect the stain to be removed would be silly. So, why do we bring our "stains" to God and not expect there might be some "rough spots" in the stain removal?
Yep, God is all about grace - instant and extended. He is all about love - new today and ongoing tomorrow. He forgives instantly. He has the power to remove our "stains" with one quick and decisive action of his hand. But...I wonder if we'd be more inclined to get "stained" again by the same stuff if the stain removal process was always easy? Sometimes, I think we appreciate grace the most when we come to a comprehension of how "ingrained" our sin actually was!
So, if you are feeling like you are being "rubbed over the rocks" of God's grace at this moment, rinsed in his pools of renewal, then you are exactly where God wants you. His hands are in the process of removing your "ingrained stain" of sin and shame - his eyes are keenly on the stain, seeing it begin to surface through the actions of his repeated passage of grace and renewal. In turn, you will be free, once and for all, from the stain which was "staring you down" at every turn!