Ephesians 5:26 (NIV), “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
Jesus is returning for His Bride. That’s pretty exciting. I think for most of us women; loving weddings and births were just built into us (the Bride of Christ includes you too men so please don’t stop reading). We dream about our own weddings from the time we are little. Our dreams however never include all the hectic, crazy, planning and work, maybe even losing a few pounds to fit into our dream dress. Every girl wants to be the most perfect bride.
This is reflected in our scripture from Ephesians. The bride that Jesus is coming for will have “no spot or wrinkle.” Think about that wedding dress for a minute and let’s learn a lesson from the age old process (chore) of doing laundry.
For years laundry was done at the river, weather frozen or not. You took your laundry with some special tools. One was a washing bat. “Long thin washing bats are not very different from sticks. Both can be used for moving cloth around as well as for beating the dirt out of it. Soaking laundry in lye, cold or hot, was an important way of tackling white and off-white cloth. It was called bucking, and aimed to whiten as well as cleanse. Coloured fabrics were less usual than today, especially for basic items like sheets and shirts. Ashes and urine were the most important substances for mixing a good “lye”. As well as helping to remove stains and encourage a white colour, these act as good de-greasing agents.” (taken from the Old and Interesting website, history of laundry, all emphasis mine.) Later they had washing boards, laundry tubs, and wringers to wring out the water. This all involved stinky, skin eating soap, hard work and sweat, and hauling and boiling a lot of water.
Then there was the ironing: “Blacksmiths started forging simple flat irons in the late Middle Ages. Plain metal irons were heated by a fire or on a stove… Flat irons were also called sad irons or smoothing irons. Metal handles had to be gripped in a pad or thick rag.” These irons were heavy and hot! After seeing some of these irons at museums I understand the joke, “no wonder they call them sad irons, I’d be sad if I had to spend hours using one of those.”
So, I think it is safe to say, that even in our modern times, keeping things spotless and wrinkle free isn’t always easy. At the time that Paul wrote Ephesians, the process would have been pretty daunting. However, he didn’t say, “when Jesus comes He will make you spotless and wrinkle free”, he said, He is presenting Himself to her in all her glory, spotless and wrinkle free, holy and blameless.” Yes, that is still exciting, but just like trying to remove a stubborn stain, it sounds like hard work. I don’t want to make it seem like we have to do this all ourselves! I am not. It is God working in us that removes every stain.
I Corinthians 6:11 (Weymouth Translation), “And all this describes what some of you were. But now you have had every stain washed off: now you have been set apart as holy: now you have been pronounced free from guilt; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.”
Though Jesus has washed every stain away spiritually, we still have some things to work out in the natural, and I will emphasis the word work. It takes some self discipline to accept and walk in the finished work of the cross. The process of making us spotless and wrinkle free may at times be painful. Think of what the clothing had to go through! The Holy Spirit may be doing the work, but sometimes He has to use a washing bat or a sad iron to get us in that pristine condition. Just like the old time spot remover, He can use what seems like the nastiest substance to get us in pristine condition. God doesn’t ever bring trials and tribulation to us, but He will certainly use them to iron us out, to work out those ugly left over’s of last night’s meal. We can’t get spotless or clean by just lying on the floor, or sitting in the laundry basket. It takes going through the process.
That’s why we can “count it all joy” when we go through stuff, just like James tells us. It’s working the uglies out of us, it is preparing us to meet our groom at the altar.
Romans 5:3-5 “(Aramaic Bible in Plain English), And not only in this way, but we boast also in afflictions, for we know that affliction perfects patience in us, And patience, experience and experience, hope, But hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has come in, overflowing our hearts by The Spirit of Holiness who has been given to us.”