Today, I did the “Big Clean.” Some of you may wash behind your refrigerator and stove every time you sweep the kitchen floor, but since that doesn’t happen here at my house, I occasionally have to do this super scrub-down. Normally, I would sit down at this computer to write and share with you from my time spent studying the Bible. But, today, I have primarily spent my quiet time with a scrub brush in hand, squeezing into corners on my hands and knees and sponging up the bucket of water that my baby girl has spilled onto the floor while “helping.” I’ve cleaned and prayed, cleaned and thought, cleaned and worshiped, and this is what I have brought to our time together today—-lessons from a quiet time with a bucket and mop.
Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One
I walked into my daughters’ room and spotted a tiny blob of jelly on one of her dresser drawers (was that jelly or some other mystery purple substance?). I washed all the walls down in my home with a wet rag and felt mystified by the unidentifiable splatters. It could be a game show—name that mess! Is it cat hair, dust, marker, crayon, pencil, food, or drink? I rescued a dozen stuffed animals from the prison under my daughters’ bed, collected up about 20 missing hair clips and ponytail holders and returned five books to their appropriate shelves.
And I thought, “I’m the only one.”
That’s right—the only woman whose kids leave behind remnants of food and sticky fingerprints as they move from room to room in the house. I’m the only one who has a bag of socks to be matched and paired. I’m the only one who has dirty baseboards and marks on the walls.
I’m the only one. And if every other woman keeps her home spotless and I do not, that makes me a failure.
But then the epiphany moment—what if I think I’m the only one because I only see the homes of others after they’ve just cleaned and not while they are messy?
After all, if someone visited my home right this second (before my children have a chance to make more mess), they’d think, “She has it all together. She does all of these things and keeps her home spotless. I’m a failure for not being like her.” Yet, if someone visited me this morning before I had washed the jelly off the dresser (yes, I definitely think it must have been jelly), they would be thinking, “She’s a mess. I’m a mess. That means I’m normal. I’m not the only one. Other people don’t have it all together while I struggle with the daily juggling of life. We’re all imperfect together.” And they’d be right.
In life, we have a tendency only to share with people the areas of our heart, mind, experience and attitudes that have been through the “Big Clean.” So, it’s easy for us all to look outwardly perfect and yet inside be feeling like a disastrous mess.
My all-time favorite move is Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. In the movie, Katherine Hepburn plays Tracy Samantha Lord, a rich, intelligent, athletic woman who looks and acts perfect at all times. Finally, though she discovers that she too has weaknesses, that she also needs grace, and that she is at heart “an unholy mess of a girl.”
Tracy Lord learned that we all are a mess at times. This is one of the things I love about the apostle Paul, his willingness to share from his struggles as much as from his strengths. He wrote:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul told others that he had problems, that he wasn’t perfect, that he had been the chief of sinners and that it was only God’s grace that saved him and now allowed him to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it. More than that, he boasted in his weakness because it allowed God to shine through. He let people see his life in the messy places so that they could marvel at God’s grace and rejoice in the fellowship of journeying to Christ together. That’s one of the greatest encouragements we can give one another, the message that we’re not alone, but that we all are in need of Christ’s redemptive and purifying work.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King