The Clean Plate Club

“This evil nation is like a man possessed by a demon. For if the demon leaves, it goes into the deserts for a while, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the man I came from.’ So it returns and finds the man’s heart clean but empty! Then the demon finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and all enter the man and live in him. And so he is worse off than before.”                                    Matthew 12:43-45

Maybe some moms still use this little phrase to encourage their little ones to clean their plate. My mom, typical of her generation, would remind me that there were starving children in India, and that somehow, my eating all of my food, including the dreaded overcooked spinach, was essential for those poor children. Her point was that I should be grateful that I had food when they did not. She was right in that, but that analogy never seemed to be a great motivator to get me to eat that spinach.

I was reminded of this when I recently spoke to a client whose husband had cheated on her. She was struggling to rebuild her trust when he pointed out that he had quit cheating and that he had a “clean plate”. He had not, however, tried very hard to restore the broken emotional relationship.

The problem is, having a “clean plate” is not enough to rebuild trust that has been broken. I pointed out that plates are cleaned in order to have new, fresh food placed upon them, not to just stay clean. The point being, one must work to rebuild trust by filling that plate with renewed emotional and spiritual connection.

The parable from Matthew above points out that just ridding ourselves of bad practices does not ensure anything. We need to replace bad practices with good disciplines and strengthened connection with God in order not to fall back into a bad place.

Avoiding evil is not enough. We need to pursue good.

Prayer: Lord, help us to pursue you as you have forgiven us, and given us a “clean plate”, Amen

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