How much can God take from us? How honest can we be? How near should we come with all our stuff and junk? As I was pondering these questions this week, this story (this happened to my friend, Sarah), came to mind.
Can you throw a sponge at God? Read on to find out:
I watched as the little girl stood with a sponge dripping from her hand. Her brow furrowed. She chewed her lip. Around her, the sounds and smells of the church carnival swirled and beckoned. Children laughing, the whir of the cotton candy machine, the buttery scent of popcorn, and the music chirping from the cake walk around the corner.
And still the girl stood there. In front of her, a boy’s face peered out from a circle cut in a painted plywood board. “Come on,” he called to her, “throw it at me.” He stuck out his chin.
She looked at the sponge, then looked at the boy’s face. She squeezed the sponge, squeezed her jaw, squeezed closed her eyes. Then, she threw the sponge at him.
She opened her eyes.
“Try again,” the boy called.
She picked up another sponge and threw it. It missed. A third, and missed again. Her shoulders slumped. Her lip quivered. She turned away.
The boy stuck his face further through the hole. “Don’t quit now. Come closer. Come on. Get closer to me.”
The girl turned back around and took one more sponge. Her hand trembled. She took a step forward.
“Get a lot closer. Come right up to me. Come on, you can do it.”
Another step. A small one. And still, the girl didn’t look too sure. She glanced down at the sponge again, and then at the boy. And I could tell that the boy’s words were warring with her instincts. How could it be right to throw a wet sponge in someone else’s face? Didn’t her mom tell her never to throw things? And wasn’t the throwing line way back there anyway? And wouldn’t that boy, who was a lot bigger than her, be mad if she got close and threw that ol’ sponge right in his face?
“Closer! Get right up here by me.”
She edged up, an itty bit more.
And then, she took three fast steps until she stood right in front of the boy. She took a deep, frantic breath, and threw the sponge. It smacked into the boy’s face with a loud thwack. Water flew everywhere. Her eyes grew round.
And then, the boy laughed. She laughed. And I laughed too.
As I stood there, watching their happy faces, hearing their laughter, witnessing the water dripping harmlessly from the boy’s face, I discovered something about God. God is a lot like that boy in the sponge throwing game. And I’m a lot like that girl.
God calls to me, “Come closer to me. Come near.”
And I stand there with my wet sponge, with all my stuff and junk, worries and flaws. I stand far back and wonder if he’ll be mad if I throw all this stuff at him. And he’s a lot bigger than me. He’s God, after all.
Yet, all the while, God is beckoning me, urging me, telling me that he can handle any wet sponges that I throw in his face. He calls me, with my sponge in hand, to come as near as I can. To go ahead and throw my stuff at him. He’s not fazed by it.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you,” says James 4:8 (NIV). And again in Matthew 11:28 (NIV), Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened …,” all you who are carrying around worries, faults, sins, concerns, mistakes, fears, troubles, like heavy wet sponges. Come close. God’s not mad, or disgusted, or scared.
Instead, he’s calling us to come as close as we can. To bring our wet sponges because He can handle whatever we throw at him. And in the end, when we are near him, we just might end up with our sponges gone and laughter lighting our face.