There’s a custom here in Turkey that appears to be the same as in America, until you look closely and see the differences. It’s a domesticated practice which involves removing dirt and stains in an effort to reach a higher state of immaculateness.
I always thought of myself as a clean person. I wash my dishes, do my laundry, take out my garbage..etc. When I know sister #2 will be visiting, I’m sure to dust the bunnies hiding behind bookshelves and on top of the refrigerator. I sweep and mop and vacuum when necessary. After spending many hours working as a house cleaner, I’d like to consider myself an avid cleaner.
But it turns out, I don’t know the first thing about cleaning. You see, in Turkey, their standards of cleanliness are so much higher, it’s unbelievable. The Turkish women are a bit like my 90 year old neighbor who dusts and vacuums not because it’s dirty and needs to be done, but simply because that’s just what you do. Every couple months, the Turkish mothers take their rugs and lather and scrub every piece of dirt and hint of stain right out of each rug. And after rinsing with a hose, the rugs are hung over the balcony or terraces to air dry. Every day I’ve been here, I’ve noticed different rugs hanging on the balconies along with chairs, sheets, cushions, and more. These women really know how to keep a clean house. And so today we cleaned. And it wasn’t even hard core cleaning…just simple vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, laundry, mopping, and washing dishes. But the cleaning made me think.
There’s a couple verses that talk about washing dishes. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisee, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26) Ouch.
I have this ring my dad gave me years ago. It’s very simple. Silver band. With one word engraved on the outside: Purity. The condition or quality of being pure. Pure. Free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind. Immaculate. Unpolluted. Clean.
I want to be the cup and dish. I want to be clean. And for a long time, I thought I was clean by the things I did or didn’t do. The words I didn’t speak. The places I didn’t go. The people I didn’t hang out with. The movies I didn’t watch. The music I didn’t listen to. The ring I wore. I was pure for my ring told me so.
But as the washcloth wiped the soap and coffee stain off the mug, I realized I am that coffee mug. On the outside, I’m clean. Ask any one who sees me. I’m the goody-two-shoes. I’m naive, innocent, just a little baby. But when you tip the mug and look on the inside, you see the grime. You see the filth. The thoughts, the hidden agendas, the pride, the lust, the envy, the greed, the selfishness. It’s all there. Usually hidden, but still there. Woe to me. Hypocrite.
Christian. Hypocrite. They often go hand in hand. Imperfection. Sin. Failure. Flaws. Mess. That’s why I need a Savior. I cannot do enough to clean my inside. I will never be completely clean by my own efforts and good intentions. By God’s grace though, I find hope. There’s no bragging me up, the one who’s stumbled and pained so many. I can stand upright only by the blood of the Lamb who washes me clean, turning my dirty rags into a radiant ball gown. He believes I’m worth it. He makes me clean on the inside.