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Cleaning rubbishLast week, I was a member of the band playing at the church worship service. The rehearsal was on Saturday morning. Although I was quite exhausted by what have happened during the week, I was looking forward to the rehearsal and to playing music together with the band. What I learned that morning, though, was unexpected.

I arrived in the morning only to find the drum area in a messy condition: cables  tangled everywhere on the floor, one tom in weird configuration, the other tom missing, the hi-hats placed in an awkward place, and rubbish everywhere on the floor. From the look of it, it was not the case of someone else playing with different configurations previously. That, I can tolerate. But someone must have moved the drum set and not returned them back properly in their places. (Note: If you happened to be the one playing the drum the Sunday before, trust me, it’s not you. Our church auditorium gets used by so many different groups during the week. So, I am not blaming you. I thought I should say that just in case 🙂 Anyway, to say the least, I was annoyed. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I was. I blurted out, “Haiya. So messy here. Rubbish everywhere.” By the way, ‘haiya’ is like an Asian way of saying ‘sigh’. I was half complaining, and half frustrated. Apparently, my blurting was not as quiet as I thought because a brother blurted something back to me, “Clean it up, lah, Sir!

Well, we all know what “clean it up” means. The ‘lah‘ is a slang used mainly by Malaysians and Singaporeans to complement almost any sentence available in a social conversation. In this context, the meaning is close to ‘please’ although ‘please’ does not quite capture the emotion. And ‘Sir’ is not because I am a knight. It’s just a fun way to address other person at times. So, “Clean it up, lah, Sir!” here can be translated something like “You can clean it up yourself, right? No need to complain. Just clean it up, man! and it will be over.” Yes, Asians are so efficient. That ‘lah’ does magic to a sentence. You should try it. Then, I thought to myself, “That’s right. That’s a great idea. Why won’t I clean it up?” So, to cut the story short, I did.

However, I wonder why on earth I was complaining? Why did ‘cleaning it up’ not come to my mind the first time? Of course, humanly-speaking, I had the reasons to complain. The previous person should have put them back in their place. Whoever tangled the cables there should have sorted them out properly. Whoever threw rubbish on the floor should have cleared them out. However, upon reflection, there might be a few junks in my heart that I need some cleaning up too.

Firstly, the thought, “Who am I that I should clean up your mess?” arose. Secondly, I thought, “I am here to rehearse, not to clean up this mess.” Thirdly, “Why would the previous person not be told that he or she should put them back properly?” The blame game began. Fourthly, I assured myself, “I would never do this kind of thing to someone else.” To my shame, the combination of those did enter my mind. In a split second, my sinful selfish nature unsurfaced and the fight for my right, my convenience, and my comfort began.

As a Christian, this is where my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ settles the tension. Firstly, I am a sinner. We are all sinners. No matter how hard I will myself to ‘never do this kind of thing to someone else’, I will inevitably do it. History has proven so, and I have no doubt it will be repeated, albeit less than the past. Secondly, even if we don’t mean to hurt others, we do honest mistakes from time to time, and they are causing people trouble too. I think I am quite good in giving people the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, I need to do more. Thirdly, God is merciful. My sins have caused mess and grief to Him, but Jesus cleaned up my mess by dying on the cross for my sins. He cleaned up my mess by taking the consequence of both my sins and my mistakes. If Jesus forgave me for the horrific rebellion that I did against Him, surely I can forgive others for the trivial inconvenience that someone may have caused me, intentionally or unintentionally. If Jesus has loved me by cleaning up all my mess, past, present, and future, surely, I can love others the same way too. The gospel does that to your heart. Fourthly, I was there to serve God. Cleaning up the mess is also serving God. It’s about what gives God glory, not what gives me pleasure. So, I cleaned them up, sorted the cables, fixed the drum configuration, and went on with the rehearsal. We had fun. Thank God for His rebuke through a brother, and thank God for Jesus who has cleaned up my mess without complaining.