The pipes that carry water in this town are, well, a bit old. Whenever any work is done on them, whether maintenance or repair, the water coming out of our faucets turns a nice burnt orange color. For things like the iron, coffee maker, humidifier, and cooking, we boil water and then pour it through coffee filters to filter out the nastiness and keep our machines from being ruined by clogs. But, we can’t quite filter enough water to do things like take baths and showers or do a load of laundry. So, we just have to live with it for those things.
But, when it comes to laundry there are a few things I do to try to keep our clothes from turning burnt orange. I make sure I run the water first, then add clothes. If the water isn’t clear, I don’t wash whites or anything light colored. So far, it’s worked. I’m sure there will come a day when the wash cycle is clear but the rinse cycle is not, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
One day I went to start laundry and saw the orange water flow into the washer. I had mounds of laundry to do, and I really, really, really needed to get it started. So, I decided to go ahead and wash a load of towels. What did it matter if our towels got a little stained? Most of the newest ones are a burnt orange color anyway!
Most of them. There is one that is (or was) solid white. By the time it went through that water, though, it wasn’t white anymore. It was pale burnt orange with a few white swirls still shining through. So lovely.
That happened a couple of months ago. Today I happened to glance at the towel as it hung on the back of the bathroom door. I was fascinated to notice that it actually has grown mostly white again. There are still a few swirls of color, but they have faded thanks to regular washings in clean water.
I think the towel stood out so prominently to me today because of a discussion we had at our book study last night. We were talking about justification and sanctification. In church circles, those are familiar words. We know that we are justified by grace through faith, and we know that we are in the process of being sanctified. But, what would happen if we were to have to stop and explain those words and concepts to someone outside the church. Could we do it?
Again, I know that analogies break down, but I couldn’t help but see a very simple analogy in the towel. When God created man, he was pure, unmarred by the ugliness of sin. But, then came the fall, and man was suddenly no longer pure. But, that’s still what we’re intended for. Perfect whiteness, purer than that towel could ever be.
When we are saved, we become pure. Clean. Totally righteous. But, even though that’s what we are in God’s eyes, that’s not always what we look like as we walk through this life. But, just as that towel is, by nature, a white towel even when it looks burnt orange, we are righteous people even though we look tainted by sin. That’s justification – being given the identity that we’re supposed to have. Righteous. A white towel.
Then comes the sanctification. Through regular, repetitive washing in clean water, that white towel is slowly beginning to look white again. Its appearance is gradually and increasingly matching its identify. Our process is the same. The more we bathe ourselves in the purity of the Word of God, the more we grow to look like the justified children we are. Some days we might start to look a little more stained again as we drift away from daily abiding and get a douse in dirty water again. But, regular “washings” immediately begin their work to making us look white again.
Just like that towel hasn’t necessarily looked white lately, you might not look righteous. But if you have been saved, you are righteous. And as you bathe daily in the Word and presence of God, you will start to look it, too.