What do we do with the dirt in our homes? What do we do with the hurts that we’ve inflicted on each other? What do we do with the habits that don’t just hurt ourselves, but drag the rest of our family down? What do we do when we don’t have time to heal? We don’t have time to argue and debate, or maybe we don’t have the strength for one more conversation on a belabored topic, maybe we just don’t want to, so we have to put it somewhere. The dust we stir up is just tangible enough to drive us from the room and we often don’t come back until it’s settled again to the floor and then we can walk over it or even better, we can sweep it under the rug.
Why do we do that? Why do we sweep our dirt under a rug? Do we think we’re going to come back and deal with it later? As if somehow a dust pan will be there the next time around. Do we think it will go away on it’s own? Dirt under a rug is hidden, but it isn’t safe. No, most people aren’t going to go looking for your dirt, but sooner or later the rug isn’t going to be big enough to cover it anymore and by the time the dirt gets exposed, it’s already grown to such proportions that it takes more than two people to clean it up and remove it.
I think the problem with most couples is that they have brooms, but no dustpans. They recognize the dirt for what it is, they see it, feel it, even smell it if there’s enough of it, and they know it needs to be taken care of. So they make the effort. They start moving dirt. Sending it this way, then that, collecting it from corners, along edges and from under furniture, but then what?
Somehow we think by exposing each others dirt, it will take care of itself.
“If I can just make him see how wrong he was, he’ll change.”
“If she could see the mass of it, if she could understand how far her mistakes have gotten, she’ll start to clean up her act.”
But it doesn’t work, and we are forced to do something, so we hide it. We walk over it, greet our friends on top of it and even straighten the rug now and then, as if it changes anything about what’s underneath.
Sooner or later, another layer of dirt accumulates and the brooms come out again. Never at the same time. Somebody always has the obligation to begin moving the dirt, blaming the other one for putting it there in the first place. Funny thing about dirt though, once it’s on the floor, it’s very difficult to determine where it came from and how it got there. The one to start sweeping is usually confident they are doing the other person a favor. It’s not long before both brooms start in though, no synchronization to be found, no servant heart to speak of, no heart at all really. Just dirt-movers, friction and tears.
Until somebody brings a dustpan, that rug is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller.
Ephesians 4:26 “When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.”
I used to think that meant Kris and I were obligated to talk it out until the issue was completely settled. Get our brooms out and sweep each others problems up and sort through each speck of dirt, until we had found the cause of his problem (wink). I’ve learned though, that I can forgive while I’m still upset, and I can go to sleep peacefully before we’ve even talked about the problem. The Bible isn’t telling us to solve all our problems before it gets dark outside, it’s saying to forgive first. The problem may still exist when you wake up the next day, but the dirt won’t. The dirt is the result of walking into places we shouldn’t walk, picking up parts of the world and dragging them into our homes and relationships. Dirt is the result of sin. We can forgive dirt. It’s a consequence.
When there’s time, as soon as we can, we talk about how it got there, how to keep it from happening, how to keep the dirt out. What doors can we close, what views can we avoid, what roads should we take and what roads should we steer clear of?
It only works though if someone will bring a dustpan to the next dirt-moving session, and we don’t even have to both be there. It would be great if both of us made the effort, but even if my spouse has no idea there’s dirt left on the floor, even if he doesn’t know where a dustpan is, I’m bringing mine. I’m not letting the dirt stay in my house. No matter how right I am, no matter how little of the dirt is mine, if I sweep it under the rug, I’ve taken ownership of it right along with my spouse. I become guilty of unforgiveness, pride, selfishness and a huge lack of love. What are we in this for, if not for love? What good is love if it fails. Love that fails isn’t love at all.
1 Corinthians 13:7 and 8a “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]”