Spring Cleaning for the Soul
Here’s what I love about stories: They let us step inside someone else’s shoes and, in the process, take an unexpected journey of our own.
In my new novella, Mercy Like Sunlight, Mary Margaret Delaney is coming out of a long season of depression and discouragement, only to find her neglected house needs a lot more than just a spring cleaning. When the mother of her pastor offers to help, Mary is afraid of what the woman might discover. And how she might respond. Here’s an excerpt:
Mercy Like Sunlight Excerpt
Mary couldn’t think of the last season—the last year—her three-story house was truly cleaned from top to bottom. “Is that what Jake said it needed?” Mary looked at Pastor Jake, then at his mother, feeling her insides turning into one huge knot. “A simple afternoon of spring cleaning. Is that what you’re expecting?”
“No, not at all.” Jake’s mother clasped her hands behind her back, her expression growing more serious. “Jake gave me a pretty clear picture of what you’re up against.” She glanced at her son. “I hope you don’t mind, Mary Margaret. He meant no harm by telling me. Sometimes we have to get rid of the old things in our lives to make room for the new. Is that how you see it?”
“What I see . . . ,” Mary began, her voice shaking in earnest now. “What I see is a house full of heaven-only-knows-what. Honestly, I don’t even remember buying most of it or know where it came from.” She looked at the toes of her shoes, dropping her voice to a shame-filled whisper. “Or how I paid for it. If I paid for it. Or what I thought I was going to do with it all.”
She looked up again, certain she would find pity in their eyes. Or loathing. Or disgust.
It was none of those things. It was mercy.
When we least expect it or even deserve it, God delivers mercy to our doorstep, often through the eyes, hands, and hearts of those who know us best.
A friend offers a listening ear, with no trace of judgment. A coworker covers for us, instead of exposing our weakness. A spouse quietly holds us close, rather than demanding an explanation. A child whispers “I love you, Mommy,” right when we’ve decided we are the worst mother ever.
Sometimes the hardest part is accepting those expressions of mercy. We’re more comfortable beating ourselves up, so it’s difficult to take down our defenses. We don’t feel worthy of forgiveness, so we push that precious gift away.
Steps You can Take
Here are three steps to take today to embrace the mercy God offers.
1. Remind yourself that God alone is good and perfect. Everybody on the planet is in the same shoes you are—in need of forgiveness, longing for a fresh start. So, lay aside your pride and your false humility as well, and let the Lord who loves you shower you with his grace. He wants you to live in freedom. Really. He does.
2. Resist the urge to walk around covered in shame. When God extends mercy to you, he doesn’t want to add to your shame—he wants to remove it. So, when you ‘re tempted to speak words of shame and self-condemnation—“I never do this good thing” or “I shouldn’t do that bad thing”—say instead, “I’m so grateful for all God has done for me.” Soon, you’ll be too busy thinking about God’s blessings to dwell on your own blunders.
3. Look for opportunities to extend mercy to others. One of the great things about forgiveness is the boundless supply. After you’ve embraced God’s mercy and grace, you can open your arms and share it with others, without the fear of losing what God has given you. In fact, your understanding of mercy will increase each time you give it away. Think of someone you know who needs to hear this assurance: “No matter what you’ve been through, God loves you.”
Your Word tells us you are a gracious and merciful God, that you freely pardon those who seek you. We’re coming to you today—again, still—with our broken hearts in our hands, in need of the healing touch of your mercy and forgiveness. Thank you for offering it so generously and so abundantly.
In the name of your Son, Jesus, amen.
About Liz Curtis Higgs
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of more than 30 books, with 4.5 million copies in print, including her nonfiction bestseller, Bad Girls of the Bible, and her novel based on the biblical story of Ruth, Mine Is the Night, a New York Times bestseller. Her latest release, Mercy Like Sunlight, is an eBook exclusive. Liz also has a popular online Bible study at her blog. Connect with Liz on Facebook and Twitter!