In one of the houses we lived in we had a bathroom with a really annoying shower. It seemed like you had to enter it through a porthole: you duck down, try to see without much light, try to maneuver your body around and get clean. It’s like showering in Gollum’s cave. Suffice to say, this shower was not the most pleasant one to bathe in, but besides that it was a REAL pain to clean. It seems obvious enough to me: water + no air circulation = mold. Who designed this thing? And why did they want to torture me? This thing needed to be cleaned…often.
I won’t tell you the words and phrases that would often go through my head (or out my mouth) while I was trying to pretzel myself down low enough to clean under all the ledges and in the corners. But I’ll tell you what I learned quick: having the right cleaning product made life a LOT easier.
This got me thinking about the concept of solvents. Have you ever had hard water stains? Or rust? You may try your hardest to scrub those suckers off and they just won’t budge. But if you get the right solution they magically and effortlessly wipe right off. That doesn’t really add up, right? Usually we think more effort = more results. But what if it’s actually the right effort = the best results? Thus the principle of solvents. But in order to be useful to us we need to talk about more than just cleaning the bathroom. So what if you could apply the principle to other areas of life? It’s like the saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.”
When I think about having the right solvent I think about the Spirit’s role in our walk with Christ, especially in the most common ways we relate to God: Prayer and Bible reading. Sometimes praying or reading the Bible can feel a lot like trying to scrub off those hard water stains from the side of the shower. But there’s got to be a solution…pun not totally intended.
Psalm 46:10 tell us to be still and know that God is God. Or as one translation puts it, “cease striving.” I think this reminds us that our relationship with God, at its core, is not based on our efforts. It’s not an elbow grease kind of arrangement. God has the power, and we have the stains. If we want to see effective change (or cleansing, to take the metaphor further), we need to access his power rather than digging in and trying to make it work. Too much of that will scratch the finish right off.
A friend of mine uses the analogy of a windshield when talking about reading the Bible. If life is like looking through a dirty windshield, the power of the scriptures are like wiper blades that cut across the lenses of our lives and help us to see. But if all we have is wipers we end up with lots of smearing (bug guts are the worst). We need a solvent to help cut through the mess. Thus the Spirit is the windshield wiper fluid that breaks down the dirt and helps the blades to be effective.
So here’s the point: if you find yourself frustrated in prayer or study, try asking God to reveal to you how to get more tuned in to the Spirit’s leading in your life. If you’re like me, you may be just scrubbing away at your issue without pausing long enough to listen to how you should read or how you should pray. Galatians 5:25 tells us that since we live in the Spirit we have to keep in step (follow along) with the Spirit’s leading. Sometimes a simple prayer of illumination (“Lord open the eyes of my heart to understand your word”) is all it takes to have God break in and reveal himself in a powerful way. I don’t think God wants us to be beating our head against the wall in vain. Yes, he does require us to work hard (sometimes really hard) and to wait for things to happen. But even in those situations we can have peace if we pause, quiet our hearts, and listen.
(I’ll spare you the cleaning product tag line here that would make this an incredibly cheesy ending).