Keeping the Camp Clean
I can remember early on in our marriage - when all the things were tight… finances, communication, work schedules - wishing and praying for “just one good day.” One where all the things went right, where ease displaced the stress and striving that made up our day to day existence. I’d catalogue the moments in my head throughout the day, hoping that by the end the list would stack up with more in the “good” pile than the “bad.” Even if the odds were leaning against me, I would start to rearrange my thoughts and priorities, and strive to make something work so the day would still qualify.
Typing this all out now I feel like I sound a little crazy, but I’ve sat with enough people walking through difficult seasons to know I am not alone in that thought process. “Why is it this hard? Why can’t we have just one good day? Or one good dinner? Will the tension always be so thick?” And the stickier question - “I’m following Jesus, reading my Bible, praying, so why is it getting worse and not better?”
Being on the other side of some of those hard seasons (not that there aren’t hard days, but we’ve grown into people able to meet the struggle head on - eh… 93% of the time), I can say confidently that getting, and staying, out of that pit of despair happens when we keep our camp clean.
In the Old Testament, God had very strict rules about how his people were to live. What they could eat, how they could cook it, how to wash, when to worship, what to sacrifice… the list went on for 600-some rules. For a long time I assumed that all those rules were just to show them that they couldn’t be perfect and they needed a Savior. On the other side of the cross, those rules are obsolete and I can eat my bacon guilt-free. And that’s not exactly a wrong view, it’s just incomplete. God desired His people to be a people set apart… but set apart from what? From an evil-infused world set on destroying their souls. And - thank Jesus - while I really don’t think my bacon consumption is affecting my soul, I think we can learn a lot about what it means to be set apart for holiness from the Old Testament.
The guidelines given to the children of Israel were there to keep their camp clean - to keep out the dangerous and promote the good, to purify and cleanse them as needed. And thousands of years later, we can follow their example for the health of our marriages and our homes.
Keep out the dangerous.
Evil and all of its influences are set against all that God has designed. Whether you recognize it or not, your marriage is or will be under fire from the enemy of our souls. To keep Satan and his ilk out of our marriages, we must be vigilant in prayer. Make it a practice to pray through your home together, regularly. Pray over each room, asking Jesus to fill it with His Spirit and to remove anything not of Him. Ask Him to use those spaces to promote His will and care.
Then, be careful what you let in. Entertainment, social media, conversation all influence our minds and hearts either towards the things of God or away from them. Especially if your marriage is in the midst of pain and difficulty, what will set you up to best overcome this trial? What things encourage you to compare your relationship to others, or harbor bitterness, or gossip? Remove those things from your life. Cancel that account. Stop that show mid-series. Don’t read those books. Nothing is worth risking your marriage.
Promote the good.
Modern day Christianity has developed a false sense of security. We talk about Jesus being “in our hearts” - and He is. His Holy Spirit dwells within our spirits and makes His home there. But so often we keep Him sort of, dare I say, trapped, there. The Spirit of God is gentle enough to abide with us and not throw His weight around. He will speak softly and quietly and not force us into His will for quite some time. But the opposite is also true, if we invite Him in, cherish His Presence, desire His fellowship He will take us up on that offer over and over again.
So don’t just kick the bad out, invite the Ultimate Good in. Ask Jesus to dine with you. To inhabit your worship as you fill your home with His praise. Write His Word on your walls and door frames… or at least write it on paper and tape it on your walls and door frames. (In a Holy Spirit fit one day I wrote worship lyrics on the window frame of the largest window in our living room. It’s a daily reminder to walk in surrender to Him.) Let His Presence become palpable in your home so it permeates your lives.
Purify and cleanse.
With the bad out, and the good in, it’s time to form habits that purify and cleanse your spirit. Just like you wouldn’t walk around your home in muddy boots you mucked the barn in, don’t walk around your home with your spirit covered in muck. When we sin, are sinned against, or just encounter sin-full situations out in the world, our spirits pick up some of the enemy’s grime. It’s so important to spend time regularly in confession with Jesus, asking His Spirit to cleanse your spirit. To forgive your sins, to enable you to offer forgiveness to others, and to lift up the pain others are feeling so you can intercede for them and hopefully offer them hope and grace in the future.
The more I do this, the more I find myself thinking “with the mind of Christ.” I’m more aware of His priorities and desires, more apt to pray and praise and speak truth. I’m pained by sin - my own and other’s - more readily and I seek peace and joy more fervently. These tendencies become habits that promote an environment that highlights Jesus and nourishes my family in His grace.
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