Perhaps our spiritualized christian lingo is too quaint and gentle to capture the filthy reality of ACTUAL Christian living. We use terms like “Powder my nose” and “Water closet” or “Restroom” to describe our physical need to defecate or urinate. Spiritually, we have analogous needs to purge the refuse and filth we imbibe. Sometimes we’ve consumed trashy TV, dirty music, foolish practices, foul language, bad ideas, stupid beliefs, and gross images. Other times, we’ve ingested good things like friendship, love, prayer, and Scripture but we still garner residue that needs to be expelled such as sinful motives, selfish expectations, or misinterpretations. Either way, the purging of various errors and evil from inside us is a necessary part of spiritual health. Without purging there is no purification.
And so, “purity” can be Christian lingo pasteurized, processed and prepackaged into safe sermonic soundbytes for our ready consumption. Yet where in that process do we encounter the gross and painful process that makes purity possible?
I have a colonoscopy scheduled for today, and let me tell you, the preparation for this procedure has not been pleasant. I have to totally empty out my intestinal tract so that the doctor can scope it. I don’t envy his work. But neither is my status anything to envy. I have been on a clear liquid diet going on 28 hrs now, and it will be about 36 hrs worth by the time of the procedure. The diet is uncomfortable, as my caloric intake has dropped almost 100%. My stomach is growling, but in all fairness, it’s really just a fast. Nothing too complicated here. Plus, I could stand to lose a few pounds. I’m pretty thankful for that diet because it makes the rest of this preparation a little more bearable. I have to take large doses of two kinds of laxatives. I have taken, per the doctor’s orders, 4x’s the over-the-counter dosage of pills, and drunk 60 ozs of syrupy water laxative. It’s gross, but I can “stomach” it. We’ll see if I can “colon” it too. I’ve stayed close to home all day, and especially close to the bathroom. My weight has fluctuated between down seven pounds, up seven pounds, and down seven pounds again–and all I’ve had is fluids (water, broth, and black coffee, and plain tea). All of this preparation is supposed to make a nice clear track for the doctor to be able to investigate inside me with a little light and camera and see if there is anything wrong in there. I’ve heard people call this process a “cleanse” but speaking from experience, you do NOT feel clean.
I don’t like to revel in potty humor, or gross-out jokes, but I couldn’t get away from the parallel between this gross and painful preparation and the equally gross and painful process of spiritual purification. Moreover, a similar illustration surfaced, turning my mind back to the concept of purging. I watched about 7 minutes of a scary movie called “The Purge.” It’s premise was that a society would “purge” it’s violent barbaric instincts once a year in wild street violence. I’m not sure I’ll finish the movie, there doesn’t seem to be enough redeeming value to justify consumption. The concept however, struck me as a negative illustration of purging. All purging has a degree of strain, pressure, and perhaps pain. But this purging flowed from an animalistic and worldly view of human nature. Freudian “catharsis” was painted all over this ugly picture. That is, the purge was a cathartic indulgence of man’s basest instincts. No one got rid of sin, or evil, or error. It was just a buffet of barbarism, as if wonton violence somehow dissipates the hot sin stored up inside. There was no purification there. Private sin just went public for one day a year.
Actual purification does not work like that. It is not a catharsis of sin. Purification is a literal purging, like a laxative, yes, in all it’s disgusting anti-glory. It does not indulge sin it expels it. Catharsis, such as road rage, or kissing the secretary, or eating the whole chocolate cake, is precisely the opposite of purging. It is binging. Real purging purification does not dismiss, accommodate, or excuse sin–as we are prone to do. The man who wants real purity takes extreme measures, even uncomfortable and painful measures, to expel sin and selfishness. This is our spiritual preparation for those intrusive internal procedures at the hands of the Great Physician. We may think that this struggle with sin the “big” issue, but underneath our crap there may be cancerous death lurking unseen. God searches us inside and out because He has a vested interest in our purity precisely because He is interested in our lives. He wants real, beautiful, meaningful life for all of us. The question is, are WE that interested in purity or do we want only that level of purity that is still comfortable, pretty, and painless? Are we satisfied letting any budding destruction lurk inside of us, unseen? When we excuse our various impurities we are doing just that, we tolerate death and destruction because we don’t want to deal with the pile of crap on top of it.