By Tonya Cherry
Many of the trials I have faced in my own life, God has used so that I could better understand and relate to the kids I work with. It can actually make me thankful for the hardships I endured. Sometimes though, I do find myself sitting in that chair, across from a hurting kid and I am aware that I really do not understand “what it feels like.” I find myself silently pleading that God will give me a sense of what they are experiencing.
I had the precious experience of having that happen recently. I sat with a teenager who struggles with OCD. He talked about the overwhelming desire to repeat a cleaning ritual when that feeling of indescribable dirtiness takes over him. As I listened, I asked God to give me a comprehension of what that was like. With complete clarity God reminded me of what it feels like when I am exposed to stories involving extreme vulgarity and filth that may not affect others but affects me. My first thought in those situations is that I need to take a shower.
Although water and soap on the body do not have a magic power to remove dirty thoughts from the mind it is the immediate and natural response. I realized that this may be a bit what it is like to feel a dirtiness that is not visible or felt by others, but felt by me and I am compelled to wash away.
I then thought about how I deal with the horror of the stories I sometimes hear. This same desire to be clean comes over me. Physical water will not wash away the stain of the stories. Instead I am compelled to immerse myself in the cleansing power of the Word. This is also how I feel when I am made aware of my own sin. I want to be made clean. The Bible talks so much about being cleansed from unrighteousness, being washed in the blood of the lamb, having our hearts sprinkled clean and how our sins will be made white as snow. Washing is a biblical word. It is a hopeful word. We should desire to be cleansed.
Scripture is full of reminders that God wants to wash away things that hurt us or cause us to stumble. His message to us has the power to do what soap and water cannot; take away the dirty unseen feeling.
I asked my young friend about this imagery of using God’s words to wash over his body and to think of the dirt falling away under the weight of truth. I shared these thoughts with him in prayerful hope that he would be able to grasp the correlation. In that beautiful moment he smiled and shared a memory he had of “words that his parents said over him” to calm him when he was young and doing repetitive behaviors. He remembered the power they had and recalled that words were prayers and Bible verses. He told me he had not thought about those in a long time. This was a moment of encouragement and hope for him.
As I sat there looking at this amazing kid I was so thankful that God was right there in that room with us guiding me and giving me an understanding when I had none. And not only that but he used that moment to bring a message of hopeful truth for one of His own.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness…Ezekiel 36:25
“Lord if you are willing, make me clean.” …
and Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying,
“I will. Be clean.”