The other night, I thought I heard something break upstairs in the girls’ bathroom, but I decided to keep a low profile until there were further developments. I figured that one of the girls would let me know if I was needed for a cleanup. Then I heard something at the top of the stairs. It sounded two little steps.
“Girls?” I said.
I heard more steps.
“Hey girls – what happened up there?”
There were two more steps.
Finally, my three-year-old daughter came around the banister with an anxious look on her face, holding her hand tightly.
“I’m bleeding, Daddy,” she said, somehow managing not to cry. I went up the stairs and looked at her hand, and sure enough, there was blood profusely coming from it.
After I cleaned up her hand and put a bandage on it, I went upstairs to see what happened. She had broken a ceramic toy plate, and when I asked her about it, she was honest: she tried to clean it up because she didn’t want us to find out. I felt sad for her – not only because she cut herself, but because she got hurt and thought I would be more concerned about a broken plate than her. It reminds me of the way I relate to God sometimes.
Hiding the Mess
I can’t tell you the number of times in my own life that I’ve sinned, made a mess, and tried to clean it up on my own. I don’t tell anyone else what I’ve done; and if I do talk to God about it, I come up with polite ways of describing it to Him (for example, I say that I’m merely “struggling” with this or that, rather than admitting I’m straight-up rejecting His will).
It’s humbling and scary to be honest – to go to God and another believer and admit we’ve made a mess that we can’t clean up on our own. We want to keep control over our secret acts of rebellion and ignore our first obligation to report it to God and a fellow Christian (James 5:16, 1 John 1:9). We would rather run the risk of getting hurt trying to clean up the mess ourselves.
Changing our approach to confession of sin doesn’t come naturally, because it requires us to humble ourselves and maybe even get a little embarrassed. Even so, I encourage you to try it next time you speak a word of gossip, dishonor your spouse, lust, look down on someone, or let your anger get out of control. Take your mess to Father God and another trustworthy believer, tell them what you’ve done, and trust that your act of simple obedience will go a long way towards cleaning up the mess.