A Change in Sloppiness


May I share a mess Iím glad I am out of? My bachelorís apartment. Of all the names I've been called, no one has ever accused me of being a neat freak. Some people have a high threshold of pain; I have a high threshold of sloppiness. Not that my mom didn't try. And not that she didn't succeed. As long as I was under her roof, I stacked my plate and picked up my shorts. But once I was free, I was free indeed.

Most of my life I've been a closet slob. I was slow to see the logic of neatness. Why make up a bed if you are going to sleep in it again tonight? Does it make sense to wash dishes after only one meal? Isn't it easier to leave your clothes on the floor at the foot of the bed so they'll be there when you get up and put them on? Is anything gained by putting the lid on the toothpaste tube tonight only to remove it again tomorrow?

I was as compulsive as anyone, only I was compulsive about being messy. Life was too short to match your socks; just buy longer pants!

Then I got married.

Denalyn was so patient. She said she didn't mind my habits ... if I didn't mind sleeping outside. Since I did, I began to change.

I enrolled in a twelve-step program for slobs. ("My name is Max, I hate to vacuum.") A physical therapist helped me rediscover the muscles used for hanging shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder. My nose was reintroduced to the fragrance of Pine Sol. By the time Denalyn's parents came to visit, I was a new man. I could go three days without throwing a sock behind the couch.

But then came the moment of truth. Denalyn went out of town for a week. Initially I reverted to the old man. I figured I'd be a slob for six days and clean on the seventh. But something strange happened, a curious discomfort. I couldn't relax with dirty dishes in the sink. When I saw an empty potato-chip sack on the floor I-hang on to your hat-bent over and picked it up! I actually put my bath towel back on the rack. What had happened to me?

Simple. I'd been exposed to a higher standard.

Isn't that what has happened with us? Isn't that the heart of Paul's argument? How could we who have been freed from sin return to it? Before Christ our lives were out of control, sloppy, and indulgent. We didn't even know we were slobs until we met him.

Then he moved in. Things began to change. What we threw around we began putting away. What we neglected we cleaned up. What had been clutter became order. Oh, there were and still are occasional lapses of thought and deed, but by and large he got our house in order.

Suddenly we find ourselves wanting to do good. Go back to the old mess? Are you kidding? "In the past you were slaves to sin-sin controlled you. But thank God, you fully obeyed the things that you were taught. You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness" (Rom. 6: 17-18).

Can a discharged prisoner return to confinement? Yes. But let him remember the gray walls and the long nights. Can a newlywed forget his vows? Yes. But let him remember his holy vow and his beautiful bride. Can a converted slob once again be messy? Yes. But let him consider the difference between the filth of yesterday and the purity of today.

In the Grip of Grace

copyright [Word Publishing, 1996] Max Lucado, p. 115-117.

Used by permission

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