By Cindy Koch –
It was strange to see such a man so very proud of a pristine window. It was quite beautiful, in fact. The clear glass sparkled as tiny raindrops glittered the surface. Pretty lace curtains were tucked carefully at each edge. They gently draped to frame a perfectly symmetrical arrangement of vases and flowers. Two identical small cream ceramic vessels took their place on either side of one larger vase trimmed in gold, lavender flowers of plastic positioned gloriously in the center. Just beyond the flawless display, the heart of the house lay exposed, for all to see. A shiny glass dining room table presented four table settings. A crystal chandelier hung directly over the spotless centerpiece. Looking deep into the room behind the shiny glass, not one thing was out of place. Symmetry, cleanliness, order, perfection lay just behind the wide open window.
Yet, it was so strange to see such a man so very proud of a pristine window. He was standing just outside, weighed down with the sleet of an afternoon storm. As he spoke, deep wrinkles from his mouth and eyes exposed his years of harsh winds and cold nights. A dark black trench coat hid him in the shadows of the frigid streets where he walked. Black boots settled into the inky puddles between the bricks on the road, so comfortable in the icy muck of the fishing village where he lived. He stood just outside of those wide open windows.
“Here,” he said, “is our classic Dutch window. Don’t you see how perfect it looks? We take great care to make sure everything is just right. Symmetrical arrangement, clean living space. And then the most important part, the window. It is very large so that we can open it wide. We want you to look inside to make sure everything is very clean. We want you to look inside to make sure there is no hanky-panky going on with the neighbor’s wife. Our windows are so big do that you can see the beautiful life we live.”
And, so it was strange to see our tour guide, Klaas, an obviously native Netherlandian, speak so passionately about his homeland’s windows. He took great pride in their size and their message. And I, only beginning my tour of the Reformation lands in honor of the 500th Anniversary, listened closely to Klaas’s words. He was not only passionate about these windows, but explained them as a metaphor to understand his beloved Dutch Calvinist theology. So Klaas went on to evangelize us bus-load of Lutherans in the name of the windows.
“See, these windows are very much like what we believe. As Calvinists, we believe that there is nothing you can do to earn your way to heaven. God is completely sovereign, and He has chosen our destiny. You are either elected to go to heaven or to hell. Those of us who are elected, he has granted us a clean and beautiful life. It is just like the windows! We open them wide so everyone can look inside to see that we are truly God’s elect.”
And the wide open window made me reflect on just what kind of a window I had in my own house.
I wish my front window was larger, and I definitely wish it was as orderly and clean as the ones I saw outside of Amsterdam. But I hesitate to tell you, if you looked in my window, you would find something else altogether. My front window is moderate size and looks directly into the garage. There I have old papers, unfinished projects, never-ending laundry, and a host of other junk I have not yet begun to deal with. Yes, I know. I should clean up my garage. And after that, I should probably install a giant window to show you all how tidy and beautiful my window has become. But as I sat in that bus full of Lutherans and thought about my window, I realized something wonderful. My window is as perfect as it gets.
The Dutch windows highlighted a life of obsessive work and presentation. As much as Klaas admitted, “We have a saying that cleanliness is next to godliness – and that is true for the Dutch Calvinists.” When everything is in order, right, and proper, this is the assured proof that you are chosen as God’s elect. Heaven forbid if the living room is unvacuumed, or if your daughter is visibly sinning, or if your façade of perfection has become less than symmetrical. Scrub, clean, repent, and show everyone the perfect window, so that God will not be mocked.
On the other hand, my window is a confused and messy work in progress. The Lutheran window is dirty, a little paradoxical, and not always pleasant to look at. If it is up to me to clean up my window, I’m really in trouble. But in spite of all that, I’m not afraid for the Light to stream through. Heck, I’m all for it if you want to look inside. But I guarantee it won’t be on this tour.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1Co 2:2-5)
And so, it was strange to see such a man so proud of a pristine window. Because Christ is all you will glean from my window. There is nothing I have to offer, nothing I have to show you except for Christ crucified. He saved even me, a weak and dirty sinner. His light exposes my soiled unworthy window. But I hope you can see this clearly: Christ is the one who has lived the beautiful life in our place.