Jesus with a Vacuum: How spiritual maturity works by John Miller
I’m no hoarder, but I’m clutter-ful. I’ll put things in rooms where they don’t belong just to get them out of the way. Then I’ll find them 3 months later and wonder, “how did that get there?” A great book or a left shoe drowns in the piles of Goodwill-steals. My garage sale skills outpace my current storage capacity. I build my collection one day, one minute, one purchase at a time.
One by one, the rooms in my home begin to fill up with trash and treasures, dust and diamonds.
Paul tells the church in Colosse to “work out [their] salvation” (2:12). That doesn’t negate what Christ has done for us on the cross. We are saved by grace, not by works. That being said, once we’ve accepted God’s free gift of forgiveness and become citizens of his kingdom, we’ve got to figure out what that looks like. We’ve got to know what that feels like. We’ve got to work things out.
I imagine spiritual maturity like this:
When we accept Jesus’ rule in our lives, we give him the master key to our heart. Jesus enters in with a box of heavy duty trash bags, a broom, a mop, rubber gloves, and enough disinfectant spray to fumigate the empire state building.
You see, the homes of our hearts are cluttered. Over the years we’ve filled it with both trash and treasure. We’ve got hallways full of rooms where we’ve packed emotions and bad feelings, nooks where we’ve hidden sins but they’ve grown and expanded to cover the whole wall. Furniture is covered in decaying decisions. We keep our living room nice and tidy, and the hallways look spotless just in case anyone else comes over for a visit. Just as long as they don’t go into the rooms themselves, we’re okay.
Every once in a while, some of our sin, like uncontrollable anger stemming from pride, will seep out under the cracks of a door and spill into the hallway. Inevitably, that sin will be seen by others. We’ll apologize, go scoop up our mess and throw it back into the locked room. These problems would take too long to actually sit down and deal with, so we toss them as far as possible and quickly seal the door shut behind us.
Jesus, on the other hands, takes the key we’ve given him and calmly, intentionally, puts it in the lock and turns. The mess begins to spill out, but it doesn’t phase him. He grabs his box, pulls out a heavy duty garbage bag, and begins scooping. He takes care of the big pieces in obvious fashion, tossing it out, burning it, whatever it takes to get rid of it. Then he goes for the deep clean. This doesn’t feel so great. Jesus invites us to come into the once messy room that’s been dutifully vacuumed and mopped. It looks so much better. We call it a triumph, say “Jesus! You did it!”
Then he turns over the couch. We shudder at stains and mold and fears and regrets and gunk. It’s much much more than we’ve expected. Jesus deep cleans the rooms of our hearts in ways we never could have expected needed to be cleaned.
Sometimes to bring us to spiritual maturity, Jesus won’t just clean, he’ll declutter.
In my heart, I’ll wrap my arms around my possessions and say, “Surely, Lord, I don’t need to get rid of this! This is something I like, something I love even! It doesn’t look like that other gunk, now does it?”
Whenever that happens, Jesus will hold out both of his hands, palms up. His left hand will be empty, ready for me to place my treasure in his palm. The second hand holds the key to my heart. Either you give it all to me, he seems to say, or I’ll let your will be done.
Jesus is patient
Jesus often cleans out the home of my heart despite my protests. He patiently waits through my tantrums. The Cleaner sticks around until I am ready for his services.
When he’s worked on my room of Anger, he’ll close the door behind him, walk down the hallway to the room of Gossip, insert the master key, turn, and begin the process again. Spiritual maturity isn’t a quick process.
Do I think that Jesus is going to be done with my heart any time soon? Not at all. I’m messier than I ever knew. I think we all are, actually. Have you had one of those moments where you’ve gotten angry and burst out with a hateful word or insult before you could stop yourself and immediately think, “where did that come from?” I think that scurried out from under the couch of the Anger room. Or maybe it seeped out from under the door and into the hallway.
Our hope for spiritual maturity
We can be free from sin, because anything is possible with Christ. I can’t deep clean my heart alone. Jesus will help to do this work. In fact, I need him to do the heavy lifting. Spiritual maturity develops because of Jesus’ hard work, not my ability to clean myself up.
I’m a work in progress. Each day I find new messes, and each day I’m cleaned a little more.