What would you do if your dog pulled a clean sheet off the clothes line and dragged it through the mud? Isabel’s Mama turned it into an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Isabel followed Mama and the children outside, helped her dump muddy water, and refilled the tubs with clean water for washing as Eugene built a fire under the wash water.
“Now,” said Mama, “This dirty, filthy sheet reminds me of something.”
“Mama,” said Maggie softly, “I don’t think it’s just dirt and mud…this one stinks!”
“Oh, Sandy, sighed Mama as she picked up the corner of the sheet and held it up for the children to see. Do you know what this reminds me of?”
“Sandy? Curtis asked with a wide grin on his face.”
“Sin,” said Maggie.
“Yes, said Mama, It does remind me of sin, especially since we continue to sin again and again but Jesus has washed us clean in His precious blood so that all the Father sees when He looks at us is the precious blood of His son…and not our dirty, stinky sin. However, that is not the lesson I came outside to teach you today.”
“It isn’t?” The children asked in unison.
“No, it isn’t,” said Mama as she walked around, showing the sheet to each child, making sure they got a good whiff as she passed by, “this sheet reminds me of my good works.”
Isabel could hear a gasp, her own amongst them.
“Isabel,” said Mama, “I have heard you often say lately that you are ‘doing a good deed today’ and I want to make sure that my children are not counting on good deeds to go to heaven.” Mama stopped and looked seriously at each of her children before she finished her thought.
“You see,” continued Mama, “ the Bible says that all our good works are as filthy rags to the Lord. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn our way to heaven. God is so Holy, so good, that in comparison the very best we can do is…well like this filthy sheet.”
“Ugh, that’s really bad!” Isabel turned to see which brother had spoken but could not see for the tears in her eyes. If Mama’s good works are as nasty as that sheet, what about mine? The thought cut to her heart, Everybody has always told me that I’m a good girl; certainly not a sinner. Of course, everyone is a sinner, Isabel admitted to herself. She quoted Romans 3:23 quietly to herself.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”…that means me.
Isabel thought about the unkind words she had said about Sally Anne before she really knew her and suddenly, she remembered talking back to Papa in her heart and she thought of all the times her pride was hurt by the other girls at school and she knew without a doubt that Isabel Greene was indeed a sinner. Her heart pounded and her stomach churned as she remembered
Romans 6:23 which says that “the wages of sin is death”, and that means separation from God, we learned that in Sunday School. What was the rest of that verse? Oh yeah, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Isabel returned her focus to Mama who was just about to dip the sheet in to the wash water, which Isabel knew contained Clorox bleach, for she had noticed Mama pouring liquid from the brown bottle into the water while the children were talking amongst themselves. Isabel listened carefully as Mama continued to speak.
“Our good works will not get us to heaven. We cannot work our way to heaven, or buy our way. There is nothing we can do. Going to church does not save us either, she said quietly. There is only one way to heaven. Jesus said:
‘I am the way, the truth and the Life, no man cometh to the Father but by me.’.”
“ Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sin,” said Mama as she put the sheet into the soapy water, sloshing it around with her hands and rubbing it on the scrubbing board as she talked. “The Bible says
‘ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’,”
When she pulled the sheet out of the water, it was clean, and white.
Mama whispered something to Eugene who disappeared and quickly returned carrying Mama’s goody tin. Mama opened tin as she spoke.
“Salvation is a gift. A gift is free, you cannot earn it or it would not be a gift; nor can you purchase it. Do you understand what I am saying?” Mama said.
Isabel looked around to see if everyone understood and was surprised to see Sally Anne and some neighborhood children sitting in the grass with them. Isabel smiled and returned her attention to Mama and the important gift of salvation.
“Good,” said Mama,“I’m glad you understand and accept the Truth of the Word of God but you have not yet received the free gift, have you? All that is left for you to do is to receive God’s gift of salvation, just as I have this little gift for you.” Mama reached into her tin and pulled out a peppermint stick and offered it to Sally Anne who reached out and took it with a polite
“Now,” said Mama, “that gift is yours to keep and no one can take it from you; it belongs to you.
“Salvation is just as simple. You trusted me to give you a good gift and opened your hand to receive it; we call this faith. Trusting The Lord Jesus Christ for salvation is faith. John 1:12 says: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:”
“ When you receive Christ as your savior, you become a brand new creation. This is part of His gift…new life!” Mama gave a “gift” to everyone before continuing. “Part of receiving the gift of salvation, my dear children, is repentance. This means to be truly sorry for your sin, ask Jesus to forgive you and leave that sin with Him. Some preachers say it this way: ‘take your sin to the cross, lay it at the feet of Jesus then turn and go the other way.’ In other words, don’t go back to your old sinful way; remember, Jesus washed your filthy sins away, see the dirty water?”
The children stood up, looked into the tub of muddy water, and nodded.
“Mama,” said Isabel, “I want my sins cleaned away so that I will be white as snow.”
“Me too,” said Maggie with tears running down her rosy cheeks.
“Let’s pray together,” said Mama as she hugged each daughter close to her heart, then directed them to the back porch steps where they tearfully laid their sinful self at the cross, asking and receiving the forgiveness that Jesus extended to us all on the cross of Calvary. They opened their eyes as new creations in Christ.
The Vision of a Mother’s Heart by Katherine Purdy may be purchased from the author, Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com and winepresspublishing.com