For years, I have needed new dish towels, but I never seem to remember that while I’m in a store. When I do actually think about it, I pass them by because I hate to spend that extra money.
However, I finally broke down and spent the money last week since we were down to so few. My family has been using the same dish towels that were given to us 10 years ago at our wedding showers. After having three boys and cleaning one spill after another, many were literally hanging by a thread. I had recently begun throwing them away as I saw no value in them anymore.
As I unpackaged the colorful new dish towels, I held up an old tattered one. All of the edges were frayed. What once was a bright red, plush towel, was now a thin, faded rag with holes. Excitedly, I held it up and said, “Look, guys! I finally get to throw this old, stringy thing away!”
Much to my surprise, my eight-year-old son protested, “No, Mama! You can’t do that! I love that one. It reminds me of home. It’s been with us from the beginning. It still works. I bet it cleans stuff and dries our hands better than those fancy towels anyway!”
“But, buddy, it looks terrible,” I argued. “Look how much nicer these look.”
He shook his head. “No, Mama. We need it. It still works.”
I carefully folded that little, ugly rag and placed back in the drawer with the new ones. My son had protected that rag and saved it from permanent elimination. What I saw as trash, he saw as treasure.
What a precious picture of how our sweet, Heavenly Father protects and pardons us!
At times, we evaluate ourselves and feel that our sin is too deep. Our rebellious choices have left us ragged and frayed. Due to disastrous decisions and deliberate defiance, we give up and decide that our disobedience has left us devalued. We believe the lie of the enemy that we are worthless for Kingdom work. It’s much easier to believe that evil tactic and continue in our own destructive way, than to trust in the promises of our Redeemer and rest in the shadow of His wings.
Though God hates sin and will never condone our iniquities, He still sees the value in a repentant heart. Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
The enemy keeps us in a pit of shame as we worry that other people may look on with disgust as they evaluate our failures. Often our family, friends, or even church members are the first to point the finger and spout judgments instead of practice gentle restoration. However, Isaiah 51:7-8 says, “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; a worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.”
Not only is our God faithful to offer us salvation, He favors us and sees the important tasks left for us to do. “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7).”
Like that rag, we may be old, frayed, and torn, but we are still useful to the Lord. Our trials and sufferings may be the very thing that helps “clean” others who have been a prisoner in the same way or sat in familiar darkness. Through our testimony we can share the burdens that left us faded and weak, and through the saving power of our Father we may see captives set free!
In Isaiah 43 our compassionate Creator says,
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you (1-4).
I pray that as my son ages, he will look on other people as he did the rag in ruins. My hope is that he will always be on guard and know he is never beyond the grasp of the enemy. I pray he will extend grace to those in need and always be mindful, that we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6, emphasis added).
Although each one of us should be viewed as trash in comparison with a holy God of perfection, I am humbled that our great Deliverer sees beyond our guilt, shame, flaws, and failures. He says in Isaiah 43:18-19a, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
He has every right to dispose of us, yet He honors those who return to Him. He upholds us with His righteous right hand and values us as His treasure.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.