This post is not for the squeamish. Sorry, but God teaches me in a variety of ways and this one cuts straight to the chase with a little bit of bodily fluid involved.
I’ve always had pets. My first pet was a cat named Snowball. He let us pull him in a wagon and endured many sessions of having his fur brushed and claws painted. Years later I had my very own mutt named Doodle. She left many unwanted gifts around, hence the name. I was a pro at my puppy skills. But my Dad believed that pets should be kept outside so I never had to worry about clean up as a kid. We played outside with our pups and washed them in the water hose. We flea dipped them from a bucket and watched them roll in the dirt when we were done. It seemed counter-productive then. It seems counter-productive now. But they were happy and neither of us knew any different.
When I became an adult and got married, Don and I decided to get ourselves a puppy. Every newlywed needs their own puppy to practice having a child, right? We found Lucy at the local animal shelter and after getting her through puppy-hood we are lucky we ever had children. She was adorable and spunky. She also had the appetite of a horse but wasn’t nearly as selective. She ate anything and everything. You’ve probably also had a puppy like that. She ripped a 24 pack of toilet paper to shreds. She loved to steal my shoes and gardening gloves. She tore open the back of my brand new couch and ripped all the stuffing out all over my house; it looked like snow in my living room. She took my glasses off the coffee table and ate them. Then there was the day she ate every last dum-dum lollipop out of a brand new bag. She walked through the house arrogantly with a stick hanging out of her mouth; it looked like a cigarette hanging from a gangster’s lips as she swaggered away with watermelon scent trailing behind her. She was also smart. Very smart. She could open doors with her mouth and attempted to climb trees. She loved to ride and understood an expansive vocabulary by the time she was an adult. We loved that old girl but thought she would never get out of that difficult puppy stage.
One particularly tough day I was home trying to keep up with the amount of laundry that the stomach flu tends to bring to a house with sick toddler. I changed my son’s diaper for the thousandth time and left the little rolled up stink bomb on the floor next to the diaper rash cream in my rush to get him to stop crying. I finally got him down for a nap and that’s when I heard the noise. If you’ve ever had a dog you know that awful, plunging, heaving, noise they make when they are working something up that they’ve eaten. I ran around like a maniac trying to find her while screaming, “Noooooooooo!!!! OUT! OUT! OUT!” But it was too late. Instantly I knew the culprit because it looked the same on the carpet as it had in the diaper and in the diaper cream tube just minutes earlier. Before I could grab her and throw her out by her ears she scampered underneath a table. The harder I tried to grab her the more she ran from me.
I looked at the steaming goo. She looked at the steaming goo. Our eyes locked and the race was on. What race you ask?? The race to see who could get back to the pile faster; and I had to make a pit stop to grab cleaning supplies before my lap would ultimately bring me back to the finish line. I could always count on Sweet Lucy to go back and offer her own clean up for some reason. Yuck. And I just don’t get it. If it didn’t work out so well the first time, what in the world makes her think it’ll be better the second time around?
“Better not to have started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command. They prove the point of the proverbs, ‘A dog goes back to its own vomit’ and ‘A scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud.’ 2 Peter 2:22
I’ve made some big ol’ ugly messes in my life. Left to my own devices there’s no telling what kind of life I would devour. I’ve tested the waters and gotten myself into some deep holes. And there are times that I have found myself returning to those messes time and time again. Sin is a human battle that we will always fight. There will always be clean up in the form of forgiveness going on. We can count on that. But whatever you are battling- whether it’s eating disorders, addiction, toxic relationships, decieptful heart, a mean spirit etc… you can trust that returning to those things is uglier the second time around. It’s our sinful nature to want to go back there and it is God’s divine nature to offer both a different road and redemptive clean up in the form of the cross.
Poor Paul was one of Jesus’ best friends and he even struggled with it in Romans 15:19-25
“I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Thank God that we can be transformed by that beautiful cross. Jesus drowns out the noise and cleans up the ugly. And when there seems to be no path but the path of self and destruction, just climb on up and find Jesus waiting there with everything you need for clean-up.
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.