Cleaning Up

In a former life, showering was an act of meditation for me. It was where I relished in the sensations of warmth and clean smells and often where I received spiritual impressions. Now, its where I generally share the small space with one to three children, begging turns with the sprayer so I can get the job done as quickly as possible without slipping on one of the small creatures around my legs.

Today, though, I showered in solitude. When the girls were playing together, I slipped away quietly without them noticing. Mondays are when I clean bathrooms, so I scrubbed and polished the sinks, mirrors, toilets and tubs, then finished up by showering myself – trying to hustle before I might be found. But I wasn’t. I lotioned up and got dressed. Still no one. The house was eerily quiet. I hollered downstairs “Is everyone okay? Where is Flora?” They shouted back in near unison “We’re all reading books!” A small trill of happiness went through my body as I imagined the scene downstairs – three little sprites in semi-damp swimsuits from their morning kiddie pool/water balloon fight, wrapped in blankets and lounging on the ground in a pile of books.

Fast forward to lunchtime. As usual, I’m grumbling as I ask each girl for the nth time to return to their seat and JUST EAT YOUR LUNCH. Then, in my state of irritation, I notice the family room. The couch cushions are in disarray. Blankets, books, toys and goldfish crackers are strewn around the floor as if it was all part of a glass snow globe that had been shaken up and then settled. I try to take a “cleansing breath” as I’ve been taught to do in meditation, but instead it comes out as a heavy sigh, and I use the oxygen I took in to lecture the children on how they should be more responsible with the crackers and not dump them everywhere ALL OF THE TIME!

Georgia. Sweet Georgia. In the most innocent voice, she asks me “Mom, did you get enough sleep last night?” “Yes, I got plenty of sleep.” (I know where this is going. I’m half irritated she isn’t understanding why I’m bothered, and half amused that she is imitating me so well.) “Well, you seem grumpy. Do you need some fresh air?” My amusement evaporates and again, I lecture the kids on cleaning up their messes.

Clearly, I’ve forgotten that they’re 1, 3, and 5 years old. Clearly, I’ve forgotten that I showered alone and was so delighted picturing this very scene.

After lunch I put Flora down for a nap, and put Millie and Georgia to work cleaning up the family room. I worked alongside them for a bit, then began picking up debris around the rest of the house. I knelt down to gather up abandoned clothing and was stewing over how I am constantly cleaning up the same messes, alone.

Then I was hit by a spiritual punch to the gut.

Christ spent his ministry teaching how to “clean up messes”, and demonstrating how to do it. Then, in Gethsemane He knelt down and gathered up all of my sins and pain. Without any resentment or frustration, He toiled under MY burden. It was not a mess He created, but that of a well-meaning but easily distracted ME. He felt alone and wished there were another way, but He finished the job. MY job. He made me clean. He made me whole. Christ, in LOVE, did what was needed to make progress possible for me.

Now I’m no Christ. But perhaps I can see it as a symbol of Him when I clean up after my kids. Perhaps I can replace my resentment and irritation with love. I can remember Him voluntarily doing my work. I can envision how, after toiling on my behalf, He would gladly embrace me, not lecture me. Like Christ, love won’t make the burden easy, but it will make the work more holy, and it will give me more love for those I serve.

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