Well, we now own a robot. It is not an R2-D2 version of the cute little robot of Star Wars fame, but something called a Roomba. It is a robotic vacuum cleaner made by the iRobot company. It was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law. Thanks, Stan and Sharon.

Like all things techno, I had the task of getting our Roomba up and running. Jan wanted to name it after our deceased dog, Abby. Since the passing of Abby, the debris from my culinary adventures in the kitchen has become more visible since Abby is no longer with us to eat any scraps that fall on the floor. I told Jan, I want to honor Abby’s memory in other ways than naming a robotic vacuum cleaner after her.

I set up our Roomba and let it charge. Then the moment came we I pushed the magic “Clean” button and the machine came to life. It actually sounded a bit like R2-D2. The robot began to move and vacuum the house like it knew what it was doing. I yelled for Jan to come and see the creature I had called to life. We stood there in amazement. Jan exclaimed, “I will never have to vacuum again!” The last time I saw her that excited was when I asked her to marry me and at the birth of our two kids.

Our joy lasted about 15 minutes when I heard a funny noise coming from the dining room. I got up from my writing chair and walked into the dining room to find Roomba stalled and repeatedly bumping its version of its head against the wall. Roomba had eaten a window shade cord we forgot to get off the floor. In its attempt to clean our house, it met its match with a stray cord.

When I turned Roomba over, I saw the mess of the cord deeply entangled in the cleaning rotor. Like all good husbands do in a moment of household distress, I called out, “Jan!” My patient wife arrived to untangle our robot and set it free to continue it’s cleaning. I remember using that same tactic many years ago when my manhood met its match each time one of our kids produced a nuclear blast zone version of a diaper.

My experience with our space age vacuum cleaner reminded me of something familiar. I have tried to clean up my life from time-to-time, trying to do what only God can do, and in the end, I choked on the cord of my own self-effort. There are some things only God can clean up. Self-effort and personal diligence can never cleanse us from these things. God has to come and untangle us from issues that are too deeply embedded in our soul to be reached by human hands.

We all have naïvely believed that a Roomba version of faith might work. That misconception lasts for only a short while until we become entangled in things we did not expect to discover in our lives. This happens when we think we can do any of this life of faith all by ourselves and in our own strength, without the help of trusted friends and a good God. We think a solo version of a life of faith will prove to ourselves and others that we are strong spiritually. The real measure of our spiritual strength comes when these attempts to self-clean fail and we call on God to untangle our foolish attempts to do what only He can do. 

While our Roomba is a wonderful addition to our family, it still needs help navigate the most challenging sections of our house. So do we when it comes to living a life of faith.


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