He’d been at it for years. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. It seemed like all he ever did. The job wasn’t the most desirable, or even slightly enticing, but, nevertheless, an everlasting joy could be seen in his face, in the deep sparkle of his eyes. In fact, it seemed nothing could remove the pleasure he found in scraping away the muck, deep down in that hideous dungeon.

            Of course, it hadn’t always been hideous like that. There was a time the dungeon had been a grand palace of remarkable splendor. No place was more fit for a king. No place more spectacular. Back in the younger days of the palace, it had been clean as a whistle. You could drag a finger on the highest shelf and detect not even the slightest hint of dust or grime. But that was before the innocence was lost.

            It started one day when I tracked in mud all over the floor. Horrified, I instantly stooped to the ground and began to sweep it up. But as my fingers scratched at the mud, I found there was nothing I could do. I buffed, I scraped, I rubbed, I dug at the mud with my fingernails, only to find it was rock solid. When I saw him watching me from the corner, I begged, pleaded with him to help me. No sooner had the words come out of my mouth when I found him beside me, scraping off the mud as simply as one removes dinner scraps from the table with a rag. When he’d finished and the floor was spotless, it came to our attention that my feet also needed cleaning. “I’ll get it,” I said to him, as I walked to the bathroom, careful not to leave a trail. But once again, the mud had turned solid and my efforts were averted by the strength of the dried earth. Yet in an act of sheer humility and humbleness, he walked into the bathroom and began to wash my feet. I resisted, but he simply said, “I must. For only by becoming humble can you truly speak into the hearts of men.”

            After that instance, the palace remained clean for the most part. Every now and then, mud would get in and I would ask him to clean it. And of course he always did. He even whistled a few times, laughing and making jokes, but only after the mud had been cleaned. But after weeks, months of increasing dirtiness, the mud got out of hand. At one point, I left the palace, only to come back with more mud and find him still at work over the previous callousness.

            It wasn’t long at all before I found what was causing the mud to stick to my feet. And when I did, I avoided the muddy spots outside the door as I walked in. But only for a little while. Eventually I became careless and lazy, and found myself simply walking through the mud for no reason but convenience. It was the easy path I’d been taking when I tracked mud in, and it just didn’t seem worth it to go around. I’d walk in, ask him to clean it and just sit there and watch while he finished up. Afterwards, we’d talk and have the most wonderful times of all. But the tension increased during the times of his cleaning. It was almost like he knew that I’d been doing it on purpose.

            After the longest time, I stopped caring at all. I tramped through the mud, stormed through the door, and walked all over his grace. “Clean it!” I demanded. And as I became more callous, the palace deteriorated. No longer did it have plush pillows – only torn fragments. The curtains were ripped and ruined on the ground, and I installed bars. Not to keep anything in, but to keep him out of those places. I locked up the windows and bed and I wouldn’t let him near. Each time I came in, the visits became more and more depressing. I’d walk in and demand he clean, and at this point, his tears were the solvent that broke up the dirt. I couldn’t bear to watch so I’d hide behind the bars and wouldn’t let him in. He pled with me to take them down, but I wouldn’t. I had them reinforced many times, just to make sure he couldn’t dismantle them. But he couldn’t if he wanted to, such was the depth of his love for me. It was a love I couldn’t understand, and I grew angry. It seemed there was nothing I could do that would make him stop.

            Soon I began to carry mud in with my hands. Not only had I stepped in it, I started flinging it around the cells and the ceiling. Many times I would instantly fall to my knees, crying and beg him to be merciful, just one more time. It was these times that he would come down on my pain with the strongest, most powerful hugs I’d ever experienced. He would hold me for hours and wipe away the mud and tears. But it didn’t sink in. I kept dirtying the palace until it transformed into a dungeon. As the years went on, I covered every surface with dirt and mud. Every now and then, I even tried to fling mud on him, to blame him for the mud. But it never worked. As dirty as his surroundings were, he always shone with a pure, brilliant light that could never be diminished.

            One day, I walked in with two handfuls of mud and flung them on the only clean spot in the room: the area he’d been cleaning as I approached. I realized what I’d done and lay on the ground, crying, gasping for the God of my life to pick me up from the mud and clean me off, when I realized that it wasn’t the mud that was holding me, it was Him. He’d caught me as I fell and simply asked me to open up the cells. With the keys I habitually carried around my neck, I opened each and every one. We walked around and looked at where the cells had been and I realized they were gone! They had disappeared, even after years of reinforcements to keep them strong – to keep Him out. Now that He had access to each and every area of the room, He started to clean. It was a long and painful process, but I began to grow stronger and found I could chip off pieces of dried mud. I found a book that had been sitting on a couch and, after I picked off the mud, I began to read. What I found were stories and miracles that changed my life.

            I soon discovered that the more I read, the stronger I became. I could gradually pick off bigger and bigger pieces of mud and found myself smiling as I did. The joy I once had slowly crept back into my heart as the room became cleaner. I read and cleaned and cried, and my tears became a solvent too. But, in this, I wasn’t alone. He was there all the time, telling me stories of the great heroes. I read the book to Him and, even though he knew it by heart, He pretended to be shocked and scared, joyful and triumphant, just at the right times. We laughed, joked, and even wrestled together as the room became cleaner and cleaner.

            At long last, the glow in the palace became stronger. There was a sort of pulse, a heartbeat, a rhythm about it that I grew to love, and I spent more and more time there, even after the mud had been removed. There were still the finishing touches – chairs, beds, windows to repair, and even the curtains needed to be sewn back together. But through it all, we kept smiles on our faces and grew closer as the days of cleaning grew shorter.

            Finally, the room has been finished. Of course, there will always need to be occasional (sometimes often) repairs, and we’ll expand the palace to even bigger proportions as my life goes on, but that’ll be set for another day. Right now, I expect we’ll sit by the fireplace and relax. Maybe we’ll read a little bit of the New Testament. I’ve been dying to hear Jesus’ take on His second coming, and we’ve got the rest of my life in this heart and eternity in His to discuss it.

 

Be Loved, 

The Jack of Hearts

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