“Get down on your hands and knees and scrub the tiled floors….and begin at the back of the house.”
This was the message I heard in my heart and mind. Though not audible, it was compelling and it did not come from my own mind.
I surveyed the edges of the floor to see if maybe something was amiss. Okay, there was some detailed baseboard work that could be done, but I could just touch-up as I wet-mopped. I disregarded that little calm “voice” in my heart and cleaned my own way. But the compulsion didn’t go away. Instead, I felt that “naughty” feeling of having disobeyed something important. Does this sound familiar?
Time went by and every time I cleaned house, I heard and felt it again. It was a very tangible impression on my heart and mind that there was something I needed to learn and I was missing it by not following through. Sensing a lesson in pride, I rationalized: “That’s just a silly notion I’m making up in my own mind.” But I knew. It weighed on me, even as I distracted myself with other things. This went on for some time.
Finally, I could no longer disregard it. “Okay, I’ll just do it and see what happens,” So I got a bucket and sponge and began to scrub, but I began in the front bathrooms instead of the back.
Oh, my! As soon as I got down on my knees, I saw so many ugly things that I hadn’t seen while viewing the floor from up on high. Immediately, scriptural principles came flooding into my mind and heart like a light switch had just been turned on–principles I saw now I was guilty of having broken.
LESSONS FROM THE FLOOR
Lesson #1 was obvious: “You can’t see accurately from a distance. You need to bend low to see the true condition of things, of people, of your own heart.”
Okay, I get it. I saw tiny bits of grunge, the start of mold in some corners behind the commode, the baseboards were collecting a layer of dirty dust. “But would the guests have seen this?”
Lesson #2 : “Have you noticed that you begin in the living/entertaining areas every time you clean. Why is that?”
My own heart knew the answer: It is because it is what people see–I clean the obvious places first.
“Do you always get around to cleaning the master bathroom in the back of the house? No? why not?”
My heart knew it well: the back areas can remain hidden with all its junk and who will know? When I get tired of cleaning, I leave off the last bits that “can wait”. Ouch.
The compelling lessons wasn’t about housecleaning at all, but about heart cleaning. I had heart issues that I’d not dealt with. I had been content to look good on the outside, to look admissible before people.
But there was yet more.
Lesson #3: “Who lives in the master suite at the back of the house? You and your husband. You are putting him last.”
People outside my family see me as I present myself, but my family knows me better. And yet they are loyal and kind. And I “clean up” for them last of all. I pay them less attention; primarily, my own husband. He gets the last dregs of my day. “He won’t mind.” But I know he does. A cleansing wash of love flowed in my heart for this gentle, hard-working man who loves me anyway.
And then the clincher.
Lesson #4: “How long did it take you to obey the quiet message I brought to you to clean your floors by hand? Why is that? Who do you worship beside me?”
People ask me how I know the Lord is talking to me. This is how it works. Would my own mind have asked that question?
I had been enjoying the Christian life. For all practical purposes, I was an active and dedicated Christian. A homemaker’s mind might could have spotted a need for deeper cleaning, but the addressing of the sin nature of my own heart? Impossible.
To address the idolatry of my adulterous heart did not come from my own mind. The Holy Spirit was calling me to pass through the low door of humility. I needed to see my heart, not as others imagined it to be, or even as I imagined it to be, but as God Himself sees it in truth.
IDOLS OF THE HEART
My idols had become legion. Thankfully, our loving Lord doesn’t reveal everything all at once, lest we despair and lose all courage. But these top idols were revealed:
* personal comfort– I didn’t like bending down on and getting dirty–not physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and especially not socially;
* action– I didn’t like tedious, time-consuming menial chores when so much that is exciting and novel awaited elsewhere;
* independence– I didn’t like being answerable to anyone but myself; asking for help with parenting was a big important thing, but the dirt in my own heart that no one will see?–not so much;
* approval of others– I didn’t like cleaning areas of life that don’t get seen (or praised) by others–move on to the powerhouse things that get noticed (!);
* myself– In all these things, God had become an after-thought, a magical genie when I needed Him, a comforting thought when I needed comforting, a figurehead instead of my Lord. I reigned supreme instead.
In the heat of doing good things, I had taken myself in precedence over the loyalty I owe my heavenly Father and my Savior, his Son.
THE INVISIBILITY OF IDOLATRY
The outcome of this unholy drift, however, had not been immediately visible. In other words, my husband had not complained about the back of the house, though I knew it annoyed him. He didn’t complain about less attention, though I often felt his loneliness. No one had complained (unless, of course my ears had become stopped up and couldn’t or wouldn’t hear).
In fact, my family and friends praised me!
But the less-visible outcomes were now revealed to my heart and gripped it in sorrow. I was a hypocrite!
While it looked like I was putting my family first, others were first. I was hurting God’s honor, and I was neglecting the people who loved and needed me most. I was inadvertently deceiving those who looked or came to me for counsel and companionship. While it looked like I was putting my Lord first, I was first. I was a fake.
The Cross of Christ
This was a pivotal moment. The Holy Spirit revealed the condition of my sin-darkened heart and it was ugly.
But thankfully, our Lord doesn’t point out our sin to bring us down in guilt and shame. Christ intersected my thoughts.
Daleth is a letter-word that means “door”. In that moment, I remembered that Christ went through the low door of death on the cross to become my Savior. He paid the price for my sin (Romans 6:23) in humble obedience to his Father:
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV).
A door is a passageway into something different and “other”. Jesus broke the chains of sin and death by rising up from satan’s clutches (Psalm 107:14) and into resurrected and glorious Life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in power and dominion and glory (Acts 7:55-56) 
Jesus Himself became my door:
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9-16).
The low door is a passage through to joy, not a dead-end!
Amazingly, he calls me to follow him in the power that he now gives me to break free of those clutches as well. I don’t have to be a lazy, selfish, approval-seeking hypocrite. I can be victorious over the bondage of sin to live a new life of love and joyful service to him and to others.
The cross of Christ is not easy to bear. It means I must also put to death my secret “loves” (Matthew 16:24-26). I must embrace the hard road of self-sacrifice. But victorious life awaits me on the other side of obedience (James 4:10).
And along with the victory of having escaped the imprisonment comes a flood of joy as I begin to walk in the wholesome light of life again.
As I confessed before God and repented of my idols, I felt joy instead of drudgery. I fell in love with my Savior all over again.
Furthermore, I fell in love all over again with my long-suffering husband. I knew that no one would compliment the visible changes in the house (no approval), no one but me would know the change that had taken place in my heart; but I had the personal approval of God and that felt very, very good.
A daily life of confession, repentance, and faith obedience
Down on my knees that day, I learned that God means what He says. And many times I don’t like what He says. Though that moment yielded good fruit at the time, I have spent the rest of my years having to be brought back to that moment to re-learn the lesson. It was a humbling moment then, and it still is every time I find myself cleaning the outside and “not finding time” to search my soul for hidden grunge.
I still pay less attention to the important people in my life than I do the “urgent” people in my life. Only recently, my heart had to be tamed back as I studied a part of scripture that really pricked my pride and shamed me before God.
God is after our hearts, though, not our shame. In all discipline, there is a sure hope of the fulfillment of all that He has made us to be. We will be more than restored, we shall share in His glory! But there is a door that must be passed through first.
Father, God, I am a sinner and am in need of cleansing every moment. There will never be a day in this earthly life whereon I can claim to be superiority or perfection. I am full of idolatry against You. Tear down these idols in my heart, Lord, and extinguish their call of ease to my sinful soul. You have promised in Your Word to do this; and to keep me until that Day when You take me home, perfected, complete to see You face-to-face. I will be made complete in Your righteousness, the righteousness of my Risen Lord, not having a righteousness of my own. Continue to teach my heart to be humble, for you became poor so I can be rich in grace. I long to follow after You. Rest me in that grace, Lord, today, and let me worship You in the cleanness and beauty of holiness. May others be drawn to Your pure light for salvation, sanctification and praise as You transform us all into Your likeness. In the Name of my Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
© 2018, by readpsalm119.com; last revised Feb 7, 2019.
This is now the first part of a two-part series; see “The Low Door, Pt. II”.
Idols of the Heart: Learning To Live for God Alone, Revised and Updated, by Elyse Fitzpatrick. (Book; Amazon.com). From a trusted Biblical Counselor.
Idols of the Heart by Tim Keller (downloadable PDF). Another trusted pastor and Biblical Counselor. Note the reference at the end to Dr. David Powlison’s blog post “Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair” ONLINE.