Self-sanctification (in which I consider the folly of pre-folded life laundry)

[More musings from the world of summer camp.]

Laundry day. (Again.We are washing things clean. We are making all things new. All these things…

Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)
Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)

…things appropriately stuffed into bags – whites mixed with brights mixed with darks, socks mixed with jeans mixed with tees, sweat mixed with muck mixed with food. Laundry is a beautiful jumbled mess of dirt just waiting to be washed and worn again, no matter how dingy and stained it may be (dinginess and stains being the entire point of laundry in the first place).

There is only one requirement here: turn the clothes right side out, please. It cuts the folding time in half. For the most part, this small request is honored.

And then, behold, someone goes one step further and there is this:

Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)
Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)

Pre-folded grime. Neatly piled and packaged dirt. Laundry that looks to be already washed and ready to wear.

The fact that a teenager takes the time to neatly fold and politely package his laundry is endearingly delightful.

But I fear that far too often this is just what I do with myself. I gather the grimy stained pieces of my life that accumulate throughout any given day, turn them right side out, fold them, stack them, and package them neatly before handing them over – either grudgingly (“Really, they’re not that dirty. I could live in them for at least another day or week or month”) or flippantly (“Laundry. Whatever.”) or shamefacedly (“Oh. Hmm. Well, yes, okay. But, um, no need to look closely before washing them, and please keep in mind that most of those stains are beyond my control”) or angrily (“If you’d just limit the dirt around me – which you could do if you wanted…”).

Too often I care more about appearing washed than being washed. (But even if dirt can be hidden, its stench cannot.)

Too often I care more about hiding stains than exposing stains. (Stains flipped inside out, though, are still stains.)

Too often I care more about being in a neatly folded pile than being fully alive. (Neat piles of clothes, however, are pointless unless eventually worn.)

Were that large mountain of right-side-out laundry my life, it would be better left inside out when handing it over for sanctification since  sanctification is a from-the-inside-out process, starting in the heart, soul, and mind. Besides, God does not need to cut down on his folding time.

Were that neatly folded small pile of laundry my life, it would be better left as a muddled mess since muddled messes are more likely to desire and appreciate being cleansed and changed. Besides, God is not impressed by my attempts at self-improvement.

That I can – and must – humbly fall as I am at the feet of Jesus each and every day is not easy in a world that encourages self-made (and remade, and remade again) identities. But I can make no such thing, let alone remake it. What joy it is, then, to know the Maker of all things and the reMaker of all who would be remade.

And so my prayer for today is simply this: “Here I am, Lord – inside out and unfolded. Have your way with me.”




Laundry day (in which I consider what it means to be washed clean)

[Part of a series in which I mused about life at camp.]

It is laundry day at camp, a day during which the dirty clothes of the entire work staff will be washed clean. There are four sets of washers and dryers on the property. Three of the four work. The dryers take approximately 1.5 hours to fully dry a medium-sized load. There are eight hours until dinner. It’s going to be a race against time. And dirt.

Laundry day (Photo: CKirgiss)
Laundry day (Photo: CKirgiss)

There is a lot of laundry smashed into the bags of this hill. (I lift my eyes to hill – where does my help come from? My help comes from the detergent.) The mesh bags hold the dirt in – even hide it to some extent.

But the dirt is indeed in there, even if it is not easily seen. That’s the nature of clothing. Wear it and and it will need to be washed. Period.

I will wash these clothes today. And then I will wash them again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that … much like God washes me over and over and over again.

Yes, we were cleansed once and forever, 2000 years ago at the cross of Calvary. But the old self is indeed still resident in the soul, even if it is not easily seen. That’s the nature of life. Live it and it will need to be washed. Period.

What miracle is this that the God who graciously and undeservedly cleansed me to my very core (cleansed me fully, at the cost of his own wholly pure life) should faithfully and patiently continue the cleansing, day in and day out, until the day I breathe my last and finally stand in his presence?

It is a miracle beyond comprehension. It is a miracle playing out before my very eyes. This laundry. My sanctification. Indeed.

“You were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:11)


A tale of death and life

Photo: CKirgiss
2012 Apple Popcorn Festival, Brookston, IN.

A few weeks ago, I saw these pumpkins while walking small-town streets during a small-town festival.

And I rejoiced because I love everything about this time of year. The crisp air. The changing leaves. The crunchy earth.

The impending death.

Weird, I know.

Most discussions about being, whether humanistic or religious, are framed by the precisely ordered phrase “life and death” for good reason. The one so obviously follows the other.

Except when it doesn’t.

Coming as it does between summer (the season of life) and winter (the season of death), autumn treads in both worlds, displaying a bold embrace both of that which is flourishing and that which is dying. In these early days of autumn, the dying can be beautiful to behold – shocking red that is so rich I can (almost) smell it, feel it, taste it. And on the same branch, a green so deep I can (almost) hear it breathing, singing, growing.

Photo: CKirgiss
October leaves of Indiana.

We tend to view autumn as the season following life (summer) and leading into death (winter). And we tend to view that transition from life to death as a completed cycle, the final stage, the end of something.

Except when it’s not.

Because of course, winter is not the end. Spring follows on its heels, each and every year without fail, leading into summer’s riotous burst of life.

I love autumn for all the reasons listed above, and like all other autumn lovers, I’m thrilled to be wearing sweaters, eating soup, and wrapping myself in wool blankets again. But I’ve learned that my autumn-love is about so much more than that.

It’s about celebrating “death and life” in that precise order. My redeemed but still-sorry soul is so desperately in need of death – pruning, refining, purifying, cleansing – so that life can flourish in its place.

Autumn helps remind me of this, helps settle my soul into a place of spiritual expectancy in preparation for the much-needed, oft-repeated, sanctifying process of dying to self so that I can live for Christ. Such death is not the enemy, not to be feared, not to be avoided, and certainly not to be mocked. Such death is miraculous, renewing, and breath-taking. Such death is a gift, really, an invitation from Jesus himself to enter the re-creation story of my own spirit that he began on the cross.

I need to die. I really do. In so many ways. How unspeakably wondrous that such death is really a birth, which is a paradox typical of life with Jesus Christ.

And how even more unspeakably wondrous that nature’s season of death, stretched across the long, dark winter months, is momentarily pierced with the greatest Birth of all. Such is the grace of God that though life leads to death, death also leads to life. Over and over and over again.