At this time of year, it can be nice to step back and take stock of how we may have improved ourselves a bit over the past year. As life moves forward each day, we’re all learning from our experiences. This forward growth includes steps to overcome things like pride, anger, deceit, envy, or other forms of selfishness. An honest desire to do this elevates our priorities, motives, actions, and thoughts.
Of course, washing such qualities from our thoughts and lives is often easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to consider the way a miner, when panning for gold, scoops up from a riverbed a pan full of sand and dirt. Then, after agitating the water and swirling the dirt away, all that is left in the bottom of the pan is the bright, precious metal. Doing this is significantly easier than picking out all the dirt by hand, as the action of the moving water separates things in the pan much more quickly.
In a similar way, acknowledging the presence and action of God’s goodness is a powerful way to help expose and wash away selfishness and self-righteousness, egotism and self-justification, effectively purifying our motives and actions. For every one of us, God’s goodness and love are always flowing freely, because we are the spiritual reflection of divine Love.
When we make it a priority to let God’s infinite goodness inspire our thoughts and actions, we see that because we are Love’s reflection, impure qualities of all sorts are truly no part of us. Christ Jesus showed us what we are as God’s children and how knowing this transforms our character. For instance, to a group of people who were puffed up with self-importance, and also to a woman who had fallen into adultery, Jesus spoke of the purifying Christ – the active presence of God’s goodness – referring to it poetically as “living water.” He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.... [O]ut of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37, 38; John 4:10).
God’s presence is always purifying, and it reveals the true view of ourselves. As Jesus put it so beautifully, God’s love is “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). With humble joy, we can open our thought to this “living water” and willingly allow it to expose things that need to be changed in our character and to change them, washing away whatever doesn’t belong to God’s creation.
In the miner’s pan, when all the worthless dirt gets washed away, it is forgotten. It can’t be retrieved. Through the powerful, purifying action of God’s presence, we can do more than temporarily repress traits we’re wrestling with. They can be permanently washed away, through spiritual growth that reveals more of our true nature – reflecting the bright gold of God’s goodness and love.