The Cleaner

One of the biggest jobs in my day is cleaning the rooms where the penguins sleep. These dens get absolutely filthy, as you can probably imagine. There are basically two ways to clean the poo off of the floor: you can hose the floor down, spread some soap and scrub it with a scrub brush or you can use the pressure washer. The method you choose is dependent on a lot of factors. If you’re in a hurry, scrubbing is actually faster most of the time. If you happen to have an intern or volunteer working with you that day, you’ll most likely choose to scrub because we have two scrub brushes but only one pressure washer. Also, during the breeding season when there are tiny chicks in the nests, we can’t use the pressure washer because it puts too much water vapor into the air, increasing the risk that the chicks might develop fungal infections in their lungs. Clearly, there are more reasons to choose scrubbing, in spite of the fact that it is tiring. But there is one main reason to choose the pressure washer: it gets the floor 10 times cleaner! The floor in the penguin den is supposed to be grey, but after the penguins spend all night on it, it is mostly white. When you scrub the floor, you can get most of the poo off, but you leave behind a layer of white and green staining. No amount of elbow grease can remove that. The pressure washer can. It has a loud gas engine and is hard on your wrists and back, but the satisfaction of seeing embedded stains vanish makes the pressure washer my favorite way to clean. I’ve been cleaning with it for so long that I’ve developed a muscle memory that allows me to sweep the water wand back and forth quickly, cleaning the floor one square foot at a time, rarely missing a spot. When I squeegee the floor dry after pressure washing, I literally push a white paste of removed stain down the drain. If I run out of gas, or the pressure washer decides to be finicky and quit before I’m finished, you can see a stark line on the floor separating the clean floor from the cleaner floor.

One day while looking at one of those stark lines, I was reminded of a verse that was brought up in church recently. Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Though this verse was referring to the Old Testament Israelites and their cycle of turning away from God, the statement is true of all people. We are all filthy with sin, even those who seem good or righteous in human terms. We can try to clean ourselves up, but we are just pushing around a scrub brush with a little bit of soap. The fresh dirt on the surface may come off, but the stains remain. Jesus talked about people who try to claim righteousness through their own work. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matthew 7:21-23) Now, when Jesus said that those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven, He wasn’t saying that God has drawn up a list of things for each of us to do to earn entrance to heaven. God’s will is for all men to come to salvation through His Son. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6a) We can try to clean ourselves up all we want, but there is only one way to get the stains out. Jesus, the Son of God, died to pay for our cleansing. Only He is strong enough to remove the residue of sin and make us truly clean in the eyes of God. And He doesn’t run out of gas. When we accept His cleansing, He cleans us completely, and never misses a spot.

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