Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grace and the Skeleton in the Closet

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. – 1 Peter 3:18-19

Happy Easter! I hope your day was wonderfully blessed! We had a lovely day visiting a small, local church where the mood was joyful and the praises heartfelt. Next, we had lunch with our beloved Grandma and Grandpa. And we studied a map of Manhattan Island, figuring out the best way to get to Times Square Church on our trip next month.

Are you thankful for your citizenship? I love being able to walk into any Christian congregation and feel at home, among family. If you’re longing for relationship with God and you’re not sure you’ve ever really understood the Gospel’s message, click on my Jesus and You page. There’s a place for everyone in God’s family.

Here’s an allegorical story about the grace God gave us at the cross.

There was once a gentlewoman named Grace. She had a way of relieving people’s fears. When she walked away from a conversation, people felt unburdened, light, and free. Grace was amazing. Many believed she was sent by God Himself.

One day, she came to my house. I welcomed her and gave her a cup of Earl Grey tea. Her words were so refreshing. She discussed my life with me, affirming the miracles God had done and painting over my mistakes with words of love and reminders of God’s forgiveness. Everything was going so well that I almost missed her spontaneous offer.

“Why don’t we clean out your closets?” she asked, brightly. “I love helping people organize!” She put down her empty teacup and looked at me expectantly.

I blinked. “What did you say?” This could be very uncomfortable. I had a really big, really offensive mess in my bedroom closet. I had never told a living soul about it. A hard knot began to form in my stomach.

“Your closets – let’s go get ‘em!” She was grinning, almost challenging me.

“Um, that’s a very kind offer. But I’d hate to trouble you.” I fumbled desperately for an excuse.

She gently brushed past my resistance, grabbed a trash bag, and stepped into the closet across from the bathroom. I hoped she would tire of the project before we got to the bedroom.

This first closet was messy, but pretty typical of a busy household. I had tossed small things in there for the past several years, planning to sort it all out when I had time. We pulled everything out, cleaned the shelves, and made a Goodwill pile, a trash pile, and a keep pile. After an hour or so, it looked like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens! My embarrassment faded a little as I surveyed the finished closet. This isn’t so bad, I thought, pushing aside my fears about the bedroom closet.

We spent a few more hours cleaning out the school supplies in the family room closet and tackling two closets in the basement. I was learning that Grace could handle my ugly messes. We began laughing and chatting easily as we approached each new mess. As she opened each closet door, whatever was lurking there didn’t seem like the ominous threat I had imagined it to be. Oh, it was still nasty; but somehow in Grace’s presence it lost its power. Nothing seemed to shock her. But how would she react to my biggest mess?

With most of my heart, I hoped she’d leave. But oddly, I also hoped she wouldn’t. You see, that giant mess had a life of its own. Late at night it would slam open the closet door and march to my bed. It would torment me, taunt me, haunt me, remind me of my worst deeds, shredding my peace with its hissed accusations. Many times I had crept downstairs seeking relief. Lately, I’d realized that something had to give. My tortured thoughts were becoming too much to bear.

That mess was going to kill me.

Grace dragged the last bulging, black garbage bag to the front door, straightened, and wiped her sleeve across her brow. A great, serious sadness replaced her cheerfulness as she looked me straight in the eye. “It’s time to clean your bedroom closet,” she said, quietly.

She knew!

My heart began pounding and sweat trickled down my back. I couldn’t speak a word as we walked up the stairs, surely towards my execution. I knew that once the mess was out of the closet, I was finished. There was no way in Heaven that Grace could tolerate its putrid stench. She would gasp in shock, then pronounce me irredeemable. The knot in my stomach turned to nausea.

At my bedroom door, I turned to face her. “Grace, I can’t show you!” I screamed. I tried to push past her and flee the house, but she embraced me in a grip like iron, gently but firmly leading me to the closet.

“Open the door,” she instructed.

I pulled it open. There stood the secret core of my sin, the horror of my selfishness, the ghastly face of pride, harshly recounting the worst deeds of my unregenerate self. I felt my life draining away. I stood silently, awaiting the crushing blow of Grace’s condemnation.

To my astonishment, she expressed no shock. Instead, her gentle voice continued the cleansing theme that had marked our day together. “Why the trepidation?” she asked. “This is not beyond my reach. Whatever is brought to the light becomes light. It has no more hold on you.” And she piled the whole vile thing into a new trash bag, as I sat by and wept.

The usual mistake is to keep our sin hidden because of pride. We’re fine admitting to the regular fare – gossip, or a bad temper, for example – but we’re terrified of facing the worst of who we are without Christ. When we hide, we subject ourselves to needless torment. We remain captive to our fears, while Grace stands right beside us, offering freedom if we will only open our closet door.

The Bible instructs us, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you might be healed.” (James 5:16) It’s important to reach out to a trusted friend if we’ve never known the full reaches of grace. That’s part of coming to the light. A good friend can reassure us that Jesus died for every sin, not just the ones we deem less serious. We never need to fear God’s response. “If we confess our sins,” writes John, “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) No matter what we’ve done, God promises it is not beyond the reach of Grace.


  1. Hey hun-
    Just wanted to let you know that I have passed on the Versatile Blogger Award to you! This award is to recognize and appreciate fellow bloggers. Congrats!


  2. Columba Lisa,

    Thank you so much for your invitation to come visit your blog from voiceBoks. I am grateful that you've found some of my writing healing.

    I must also tell you, this post talking about Grace cleaning your closets is one of the most beautiful word-pictures I have ever read of the power of traumatic memories, and the greater power of healing Grace. I read the post slowly, twice, and cried both times. Having been on this healing journey for over 20 years, it was such a privilege to resonate with your experience, to recognize a fellow journeyer.

    Thank you.

    ~RJ, the Hope Coach

  3. Thanks, RJ, both for your encouragement and for following my blogs! I hope you had a blessed Sunday. Let's keep in touch!
    In Christ's love,