What does hairspray, a bar of soap, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser have in common? It all started with me gathering laundry. And then I found it—an epic ink pen explosion on Dave’s Marc Anthony jeans.
On the right leg, there was a deep purple Rorschach ink design with splatters going outward. I gasped. No…not Dave’s favorite jeans.
I took a can of hairspray and went to war. As I sprayed, I blotted the deep purple ink into an old white cloth. Ha, I’m making progress…I thought, still naïve.
When I lifted the jeans I realized I had made an epic mistake. By not putting a cloth inside the pant leg, I had transferred the stain onto the back of the jeans. I sighed, saddened, but not ready to give up.
Twenty minutes later, I was out of hairspray and time. I cleaned up the mess and decided to let the jeans sit for a day. You see, I had recently resolved to try to fix things instead of replacing them. Little did I know that the stain had a costly lesson to give me.
Calling in Reinforcements
The next morning, I pulled out the damp jeans and spread them on the kitchen counter. It was time to call for help. When Dave saw the stain he sighed. “Wow, that looks bad. I don’t know honey.”
“Please help me,” I said. “I need your strong arms.” We quickly moved to straight rubbing alcohol, pouring it straight on the stain and blotting until our arms ached.Yet, when I finally pulled the pocket out we realized that it was full of purple as well. “Honey, the ink is in the very fibers of the jeans,” Dave said sadly. Yet we pressed on.
Finally, after 45 minutes of us laboring together, Dave had a brilliant idea—to soak the stained spot in a combination of boiling water, white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
After a ten-minute soak, I drained off the light purple water, to find only a small stain remained. I whispered a prayer for victory.
Suddenly, Isaiah 1:18 came to mind….
“Come now let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. I realized I had a precious opportunity to understand sin and forgiveness in a new way. You see, even more so than purple ink, scarlet dye has incredible sticking power.
Though your sins be as scarlet
To make the rich, expensive cloth, scarlet dye was double-dipped and long-soaked in order to saturate every thread. Once this process was completed, scarlet dye was virtually impossible to remove.
Likewise, our sin soaks into the very fiber of our being, permanently noted in our brains and relayed into our chemistry. I came into Christianity with generational sin stains, addictive tendencies, codependency and mounds of fear.
That fear would make me bend myself away from who God created me to be, to become what I thought other people wanted. Oh so scarlet.
As an accused soul, I’ve fought hard to accept God’s amazing grace—that he takes my deep scarlet sin and makes it white as snow. I treasure that grace.
But straining to remove just one stain from one careless moment made me think of the power of sin’s stain. Have I become complacent about forgiveness?
God’s gracious transfer
The Good News Translation of Isaiah 1:18 reads a little differently…
“You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool.”
We come to God with a deep, stubborn stain—one that is impossible to cleanse on our own.
“Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleaning power, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord.” Jeremiah 2:22
The only way I could get that stubborn stain out Dave’s jeans was to first release it, and then transfer it onto white, unstained cloths.
Likewise, God asks us to be immersed in water and washed in blood (Acts 22:16). As we do, God releases the hold of the crimson dye and then transfers our stains onto his pure, unblemished son.
“Who is this coming from Edom…with his garments stained crimson? ‘It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.’” Isaiah 63:1
But there’s even more. If God simply removed the stain, we’d go out and get more. (When it comes to sin, we all carry broken pens in our pockets!)
As portrayed in Isaiah 1:18, God not only transfers the stain (making our souls white as snow), but also restores the fabric of our being to be more resilient to stains (white like wool). This is the work of his indwelling Holy Spirit. (Hallelujah!)
Volumes and volumes of books have been filled with explanations of how God does this. It is not simple, nor easy. In fact, it cost him everything he held dear. Lord, does my daily life reflect this?
Taking it deeper…
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:22
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every stain of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
Jesus’ work on the cross has cleansed me perfectly, but it doesn’t free me from responsibility; rather it motivates me to actively reach for holiness. In his grace, God has provided some do’s and don’ts to help along the way.
Do keep far away from staining influences — Although you are called to love your neighbor, be extremely cautious of stains that may rub off on you (Jude 1:23). Keep yourself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).
Don’t forget that you need other people’s help — When you let others in, you can experience my cleansing power. Please don’t wait to talk about your sin until after you’ve “cleaned it up” (James 5:16 Amplified).
Do take a strong hand on your own habitual sin — How many of your sins are double-dips or even daily-dips? How long do you “soak” in your selfishness? Beware of soft addictions like gossip, shopping or media obsession, which give the evil one a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).
Don’t let your sin fester long — When you confess your sins to me and don’t try to hide, I will take your guilt away (Psalm 32:5).
Do humbly accept responsibility when you hurt others — Hurting others comes along with being human. When it happens, humble yourself and let me lift you up (James 4:10). Do everything in your power to live in peace with others. (Ephesians 4:3).
Seeking to keep unstained is part of a journey to a secure heart.
“Then can you lift up your face to Him without stain [of sin, and unashamed]; yes, you shall be steadfast and secure; you shall not fear.” Job 11:15 (AMP)
Now some of you are still wondering…did the stain come out of Dave’s jeans? After that last soak, a healthy application of Shout, and a spin through the washing machine the stain is hardly noticeable (you’d have to look very closely).
Dave pronounced his jeans healed (Hallelujah!) and thanked me profusely, because by caring about his ink stains, I showed I cared about him.
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