Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Laundry Lessons--When My House Looked Like My Righteousness

"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Is. 61:10 ESV

Remember the verse from Isaiah. “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Yesterday my house reminded me of my righteousness—full of filthy clothes!

I’ve spent the last year writing two books, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana and Love Finds You in Victory Heights Washington. The deadline for Victory Heights was Monday and, sisters, for the last week I worked 10-12 hour days.

Needless to say keeping up on housework, and especially laundry, went out the window—or rather into huge piles all throughout the kids’ rooms, my room, and the hallway.

Our physical well-being was at risk (in case an unaware wee one tripped and crashed her head into a lego creation or other strewn mess.) And our spiritual health also hung in the balance (not the prettiest words pour out when a struggling-to-maintain-her-happy-demeanor mama stumbles on a pile of dirty jeans.)

So yesterday, the first day after the deadline, I jumped in with both feet—and elbows, hands, and a bottle of bleach—to clean! For some reason, I thought my kids would be as fed up with the mess as I was. It was TEAM FLEISS time, and we would conquer the house together.

So, while I chucked one load after another into the washer, scrubbing showers and dishes in the down time, I cheerfully gave the kids tasks. “Christian, yank all that stuff from under the couch.” “Abigail, take this sponge and scrub the stains on the wall.” And the ultimate goal— “Gabrielle, those piles of laundry in the hall need to come down!”

Then as sweet Gabrielle lugged her third basket of laundry down the stairs, she began to make a strange sound. Could that be whining?

I was so surprised. My daughter was whining about cleaning? Doesn’t she know this house is a disaster? I’m gonna be honest. A rumbling frustration grew in my chest. I wanted her to willingly help with a smile—like Snow White in the dwarves’ cabin. “Whistle While You Work.”

Even though my crazy fantasy lacked any understanding about kids’ attitudes toward cleaning, I was disappointed, and tempted to snap at her. “Don’t you want to be on Team Fleiss? Don’t you want to stop living in filth?”

But by God’s grace, instead of snapping, I took a moment to pray and think. Maybe my ideal was extreme, but my desire to instill the value of hard work and a clean home was a good one. How could I take this moment to teach her?

Here’s what I told her.

1. “Sweet Gabrielle, after you brought all those loads down, when you looked at the empty hallway, how did that feel?” She shrugged and said, “Good.” Phew, she said the right thing. “One reason we clean is because it feels good to work hard to make it look nice.’ She liked that. So I moved on.

2. “Another reason we keep our house tidy is to bless others. When you brought down the laundry it meant the family will have clean underwear (which is gleeful!) AND nobody will crash to his death from tripping on the piles. All because you did the not-so-fun work. Thank you, Gabrielle.” A big smile spread across her face.

3. Finally, the most important reason. “We also clean with a cheerful heart because it pleases God. Remember that verse, ‘Rejoice always.’? An orderly house pleases Jesus. It means we care about the home he gave us.” My thoughtful girl’s eyes squinted. “Hmm. Okay, Mama.”

So by the end of the day my house no longer looked like my righteousness—not so full of filthy clothes. But the question still remains. How can my righteousness be cleaned up?

Well, my logic to Gabrielle only worked because God is in her heart, making the truth come to life. And the same is true of me. My temptation to snap shows how scroungy my heart is when ruled by my own selfish desires. I need someone to change my heart from mucky to clean.

There’s hope.

Christ takes our filthy clothing and exchanges them for garments of righteousness. Unlike my home, I can’t scrub hard enough to clean my own hearts. But when I trust in him alone, he does it for me. And dressed as his bride, I go out with joy, serving him in all I do—whether scrubbing showers, teaching whining children, or folding piles of laundry. He is with me.


Rebecca M said...

I love how you explained the whys of cleaning to Gabrielle- sweet! And your cleaning spree is inspiring! Keep at it, Ocieanna!

Ocieanna said...

Thanks so much, Rebecca! I'm so excited someone read my post. :)