The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
The word picture Augustine uses to describe the state of his soul brings to mind a musty old basement so filled with cobwebs and dirt and old boxes and various other pieces of junk that you can hardly find a place to walk. As soon as you open the door and look inside, you know that it will take hours upon hours of hard work to make it usable. Perhaps Augustine chose that word picture because he knew that spiritual growth is a long-term process that will not be completed until we see the Lord face to face.
But praise God that He is able to cleanse and repair our souls! This “extreme home makeover” is no problem for Him! He will even get rid of the junk we can’t see! The last two lines of the prayer are a quote from Psalm 19:
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. - Psalm 19:12-13 (NIV)
This passage reminds me of 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
Obviously, I’m only able to confess the sins I see. But God promises here to purify me from ALL unrighteousness in my life, not just the unrighteousness I see. If I come to Him in repentance whenever I’m aware of sin in my life, He will be faithful to get rid of the dirt I can’t see. Even if it takes the long-term process of spiritual growth, I can have complete confidence that He will make me clean and usable for His glory.