The battle for my heart was finally calming as I kneeled over the soapy bucket. Steamy wisps came from the surface of the hot water as I surveyed the mess and began the job of mopping up the mustard that had splattered across the kitchen floor. Yellow flecks had found their way onto the walls. And the woodwork. And the cabinets. The white cabinets. (Oh, yes, girls, bright yellow mustard does stain white woodwork… in case you’re wondering.) Humility was finally replacing rage as I scrubbed. And I wondered, was I really just wiping up the mustard or trying to erase my sin?
For I knew it now. There was no escaping the reality of it. I had done this thing. I had shattered the mustard bottle by throwing it to the ground in an angry outburst. It wasn’t the kids and their bickering. Or our busy schedule. Or the reminder that I need to make another trip to the grocery store. Or the spazzy dog making noise in the background. Or even the fact that I was the only one who seemed to care about getting everything gathered up to go to the lake for the afternoon.
It might have looked like one of those things was to blame but it really wasn’t. And I knew it.
It was me. I had done this thing. No one else.
What words had gone flying out of my mouth and into their tiny souls as I screamed at them and threw the mustard to the ground? What had I said when I slammed the kitchen door and stomped down the basement steps for extra emphasis? I couldn’t remember now but I knew they hadn’t been pretty. They certainly hadn’t been the grace-filled, life-giving words of a woman controlled and empowered by the Spirit of God. Something else had replaced them. Something from the old ways. Something more like condemnation and selfishness and exasperation. Something ugly. And those words had spewed all over my kitchen too – probably making a bigger mess than the mustard stains.
Now the soapy water on the floor was mingling with fresh tears from these eyes and I finally stopped my scrubbing and just wept. In that moment, I gave up trying to scour away my own sin and let His blood cover over the mustard instead.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when, right there in the mustard mess of my own doing, He joined me on the kitchen floor.
Isn’t that the beauty of the Gospel? In that moment of one of my grossest failures, God came in. And instead of telling me to “keep calm and carry on,” the God of the universe whispered, “keep humble and lean in.” Because there wasn't anything calm about the mess I had just made. He wasn't going to dress it up. He also wasn't asking me to just suck it up and carry on like nothing had ever happened. No. He was just asking me to lean. To lean into the riches of His glorious grace. He was urging me to let the grace and favor that He had already purchased at the Cross pour over my weary head and wash through my home. It was the only thing that could truly clean up the mess I had made.
In the years that have followed my mustard-moment, I've been learning that it’s less about how hard I try and more about how hard I lean. Maybe that sounds like a cop out. But I think it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's a tough concept in our 3-step, try-harder culture. We American Christians don't know much about leaning. We live in the land of plenty where men are self-made and books about being successful are in every home. What we know is trying harder.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all "trying" is bad. I'm not giving up on self-control and discipline. Because, I know I play part in my growth and holiness. In that sense, I do "try." But, it's a responsive try.
I’m more convinced than ever that it's this leaning that is the answer. I need to let the truth of the Gospel soak deep down into every nook and cranny of my heart. I need the fruit of the Spirit to manage my emotions. I need God to help me turn from those idols that feed my anger in the first place. I also need Gospel-induced grace and mercy to bring healing when I forget to lean... and fail instead.
So, I come to you humble. Not standing proud as one who has it all together with her supermom cape flying behind her as she tackles life undaunted. I come humble. As a mom who is convinced that leaning is the best posture.
And, I have a few stubborn mustard flecks on cabinets to remind me of it.