May the Force Expunge You

I write tongue in cheek, but I seriously had an encounter with God while pressure washing, which is why I bring the matter up. I was “listening to my life” as Frederick Buechner puts it. Water without pressure makes no difference. It will not remove the grime. But when the right amount of force is placed behind the water, the cement is cleansed. The pressure literally expunged years of filth.

Coming off Easter weekend, I cannot help but view the cross with this kind of pressure-like force.

My wife’s father is in his final days with cancer. As I write, he lies in the next room hooked up to an oxygen machine while his body receives much-needed saline to keep his extremities from cramping. For those of you who aren’t married, this is your preview. Marriage is (among other things) the incredible opportunity to join into another family, engage it as your own and commit to whatever comes your way.

For the past several weeks we (my wife and I) have been living with her parents in a small Georgia town—quite a shock from our home in Long Beach, California. I have found myself yearning to make meaningful contributions to the family at this time. Thus far, most of my contributions have been realized in the backyard. From mowing grass to chopping trees, these have been the recent crosses I bear (that says a lot for a church planting book nerd). But today came a breakthrough. A package arrived in the mail, creating a whole new task for me to undertake … drum roll please … The Pressure Washer!

Now, as a child this would have posed a threat to my pre-scheduled afternoon activities including, but not restricted to, reruns of Mark Summers, wearing a grey suit and tennis shoes while coaching contestants running through a ridiculous obstacle course. [1]  This to be followed by some punk contenders embarking on an all new quest for the prestigious Agro Crag. [2]

But, as an adult, pressure washers spawn new possibilities, grand visions and profound callings. Need I go on? Pulverizing decades of dirt, grime, oil and fossilized feces from the driveway is one of the greatest experiences a son-in-law could ask for. What did people do for kicks before this fantastic piece of machinery came into being? As you read this, you are probably thinking, “He’s right. We have feces. We should get a pressure washer.” See?

I write tongue in cheek, but I seriously had an encounter with God while pressure washing, which is why I bring the matter up. I was “listening to my life” as Frederick Buechner puts it. Water without pressure makes no difference. It will not remove the grime. But when the right amount of force is placed behind the water, the cement is cleansed. The pressure literally expunged years of filth.

Coming off Easter weekend, I cannot help but view the cross with this kind of pressure-like force. I’ve recently immersed myself with works by scholars who deny the reality of vicarious atonement, and it baffles me. Atonement is the primary reason I cannot buy into pluralism, though I must confess the temptation at times. Whereas some have called the cross a form of “cosmic child abuse,” I am suggesting that this act on the cross was purposeful in purifying the height, width, depth and breadth of my rebellion toward God. And whether or not you subscribe to the notion that it happened as Genesis records, it is enough for us to agree that is happens.

I spend my weeks as a church planter dreaming up opportunities for our church to love the neighborhood. I seek opportunities to heal and give my resources to strangers daily, I mentor kindergartners weekly, serve on the school board monthly (I don’t even have kids), I write for an online publication for free, and am faithful to my wife and church community at all costs. But when it comes to the darkness I hide by smiling, the brokenness I mask while working, the shame I shield through teaching …

… when it comes to the depth my spiritual depravity, there is no amount of goodness I can offer to purge the decades of dirt I carry within. Perhaps the pressure washer is a cheesy example, but it serves as an accurate metaphor for the topic at hand.

Now, for the past five years, I have been most intrigued by the notion of salvation from a cosmic scale (e.g. social justice, Kingdom now, equality to all, etc.). I presume many of you feel the same.

See Also

I, like many of you, grew up in environments where salvation is primarily about personal salvation. The goal of this strategy is usually getting individuals to adhere to specific propositions so they may one day go somewhere good after life on earth. This exclusive perspective of salvation has led many (including me) to a reactionary disposition—thus, cosmic salvation, where all is put right. And I cannot say that I blame you, me, us, whomever. But if we are not careful, we polarize and forget that, in the end, the good news of wholeness found in Christ is both cosmic and indeed personal. So let’s not minimize the personal dimension just because we feel it has been maximized!

It is funny how God speaks in ordinary ways: prayer, Scripture, pressure washers and so forth. Although salvation fascinates me immensely from a cosmic perspective, it brings great peace to know that cancer will not be the last word in my father-in-law’s life. For the personal covenant he has with God will surely carry him through this life and into the next. May you walk in the reality of the love God has already freely poured for you. May the force of the cross expunge the depth of your dirt!

***

1. A reference to Nickelodeon’s game show, Double Dare
2. A reference to Nickelodeon’s game show, Guts

Scroll To Top