Back in the day, classrooms had chalkboards and students were sent outside to "clap the erasers together" to rid them of the built up chalk dust. On occasion, the boards would be washed clean with a moist rag in order to get them back to their darker, pristine-like condition. Today's classrooms are adorned with whiteboards and colored markers - something more easily removed with a common dry rag. There was something kind of revealing and rewarding in the clapping of the erasers - it showed how much things "build up" and how ineffective it is to try to remove what is "built up" when we are doing it with the same efforts and tools! It actually took ridding the eraser of the chalk dust to get the boards to their optimal clean!
It is a great blessing when people are forgiven for the wrongs they have done, when their sins are erased. It is a great blessing when the Lord says they are not guilty, when they don’t try to hide their sins. (Psalm 32:1-2 ERV)
Erasure of the board only happened when the felt eraser was scrubbed over the thing recorded on the board. You could wish the words away as much as you wanted to, but they wouldn't just disappear because you wished them away. You could even take a quick swipe at them with the felt eraser, but what would remain was a tell-tale image of the thing recorded there in the first place. You could try to write over the remaining image, but somehow it just made the present image look a little less clear. The truth of the matter is pretty plain - to really have something erased, it takes some effort on our part, a lot of "yielding" to the effort by the chalk's part, and the commitment to see the work through until it is complete.
I think we somehow think if we just wish for our sins or shortcomings to be gone, we might just someday be free of them. How's that been going for those of us who might just think wishfully about freedom from our sin? I imagine you are as frustrated as a cat in a window looking at a flock of birds in the front yard! You might as well have an iron wall between you and those wishes coming true because sin's erasure requires a little more than wishful thinking. How do we reconcile what the scripture says about confessed sins and the "memory" or "image" of them remaining after confession? I think we might just do well to consider our chalkboard illustration for a clue on this one.
As soon as we get up from our seats to make our way to the chalkboard, there is something which begins - the intent to see what is there removed. The journey to "full erasure" begins with the first movement on our part. As the eraser is picked up and there is a beginning to the movement of the eraser over the chalkboard, another thing begins to happen - the memory of what was there begins to blur and become less and less "acute". It may still be there in shadowy images and "chalk dust", but it blurs considerably. The continued focus on the eraser making contact with the board until all the reminder of the writing is removed is what makes the difference.
As with the chalkboard, our release from sin begins with our first action toward "erasure" - confession. As long as we remain silent about our sin, we are only wishing away the influence and hold of that sin in our lives. As soon as we bring the sin to God, he is able to begin the work of helping us erase it totally. The erasure is both "instantaneous" and "progressive". God forgives - just like a teacher who may say, "Step up here and correct what you did wrong - go ahead, you have another chance." He watches carefully as we take the steps, just as a teacher would watch our move toward the board and the recognition of what needs to be erased - like when we talk through our sin with God and realize where we took the misstep.
He helps us finish the erasure of the sin's memory by us taking all the necessary steps to change what image is written there next. Just as the teacher would help us reorder the steps of a math problem gone awry on the board, he helps us erase the steps we take which have us going awry in our lives. The thing which we don't realize is the value of the "clapping of the erasers" and the "clean, moist rag" wash. We often settle for the "dust" of the sin to remain - God isn't content until all the evidence of the sin is removed - so he sends us through phases of "release" - like the clapping of the erasers and the washing of the board. Yes, he forgives our sin and removes it from his memory, but he cares so much about us that he wants the memory of it removed from our lives, as well - something which might just require some additional effort and responsiveness on our parts.
We should never settle for chalk dust in our lives - nor should we resist the times when God tells us to take the erasers outside and clap them until the dust is removed. All he is doing is helping us to finally be rid of the troubling evidence of sin in our lives - so we don't go about trying to spread the memory of that sin all over the cleanness of the board he has prepared for us to write the next chapter of our lives upon. Just sayin!