Oxyclean, the product that saved countless baby clothes in the early years of my mothering, has been on my brain. This weekend an image from its infamous infomerical stalked me: the magnified image of a stain in a woven piece of cloth slowly being pulled apart by the magical, mysterious chemical wonder that is Oxyclean.
Our unspoken thoughts and mediations stain our souls. As such, if my soul was a cloth, it would appear to be tie-dyed shirt, with a few bright patterns of unstained freedom breaking up a mostly fear-stained background.
My soul becomes quickly stained by countless shades of fear. Fears of harm coming to my children, fears of the future, fears of living an insignificant life, fears of making the wrong choices with my time, fears of being too busy for my children, fears of how I am inadvertently harming my children and fears of not having the money to pay for the counseling they will surely need.
Most of the time, I am unaware my soul has been dunked and dipped from fear bucket to fear bucket until the Lord graciously allows me an honest look at my heart. In those rare, honest moments of Spirit-enabled scrutiny, I see a soul stained by fear.
This past weekend, our Church hosted its bi-annual Women’s retreat. Lovely moments laced the entire weekend: women worshipping God together, amazing teaching that made the Word come alive, cozy beds and deep connections. However, I most treasured the intergenerational discussion groups. It was in these groups that God began to Oxyclean away patches of my fear-stained soul.
Widows who shared about losing their husbands and empty-nest mothers who vulnerably invited us into the unexpected pain of watching adult children suffer from divorce or disease or unwed pregnancy were sprays of stain-remover from the hands of the Lord.
Through mixed tears of pain and pleasure, they talked about the ways the body of Christ had upheld and surrounded them and their loved ones through trials; they talked about ways God had redeemed or had at least begun to redeem their deepest valleys. They talked about standing with hinds feet on their craggy, steep places.
These women were on the other side of my unuttered but very real fears, yet they were full of trusting joy and faith.
Each hard story, rather than increase my fears, ate away at them, releasing me into the freedom and hope of Christ. Their perspective and wisdom began to scrub away and loosen the places of deeply-entrenched fear in my soul.
Upon reflecting over those precious soul-scrubbing stories of God’s grace in the midst of the unfolding of these women’s deepest fears, 1 John 4 came immediately to mind.
So we have come to know and trust the love God has for us. God is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men – for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us. Love contains no fear- indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. The man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected. 1 John 4:16-18 (J.B. Phillips translation, emphasis mine).
These dear saints have gradually become more and more perfected in love through tests and evidences of God’s sustaining grace. Their fears had been shot through with the perfect love and abiding presence of God.
Their contagious freedom and compelling stories of God’s faithfulness began to dissolve my deep-set fears, particle by particle.
Oh, how I long to be increasingly filled with complete confidence in the love God has for me and for my family. How I long for Christ to continue to pull away my fears, particle by particle, until my soul is free at last to sing unfettered praise to God.