My mother-in-law, Ruth, was not the best housekeeper in the world. If she were alive today, she would tell you the same thing (we talked about it so I know), so I’m not being indiscreet with any family secrets. Six kids, 22 grandchildren, dogs, cats, men who liked to “work on cars”, her failing physical condition and just plain old life wore her housekeeping skills down over the years. But she never turned a soul away who wandered even close to her door.
This led to some challenges as you might imagine.
One summer, one of her beloved granddaughters was getting married. With an extremely tight budget and typical southern hospitality she rolled up her sleeves and went to work making piles and piles of food.
She also hosted piles and piles of people in her very small, un-air-conditioned home… did I mention it was the end of July in Georgia?
We arrived, six of our own kids in tow, to a house that had been exploding with people and activity for many days already. After making I don’t even know how many deviled eggs, potato salad and the like, the day was waning and I needed to give my kids baths and get them ready for bed.
But I gotta tell you that one look at that bathroom changed my plans radically. Without going into the details, there was no way on God’s green earth anyone of my darlings was going to set foot in that bathroom. It was BAD.
With all of the grace and maturity I could muster, I came out and whispered to my husband that we needed to leave, NOW. He was in the middle of trying to fix the air-conditioner, so that wasn’t going to happen.
I was furious. I needed to use the bathroom myself. I couldn’t believe that all those people had been in and out of that woman’s home, knowing her state of health and affairs and not ONE of them cleaned the bathroom! Honestly! What were they thinking?
As I stewed and judged the Lord broke through my nasty rantings – “Why don’t you clean it?”
“Yes, you heard me. Why don’t you clean it?”
I never have a good answer for these internal conversations. But I still argued. I didn’t make that mess. I’m not part of this problem. I would NEVER let my bathroom get like that! Hmph. Clean it indeed – it would take hours to clean it.
“But you still haven’t answered my question. Why don’t you clean it?”
And then the weight of my haughty, ugly, stinking selfish motives came crashing down on my head. I thought, “If I thought Jesus was coming to this wedding, I’d be happy to clean this bathroom for Him. Why am I not happy to clean it for her – my husband’s mother? She NEEDS someone to do it for her – why, indeed, wouldn’t I do it?”
In an instant I knew both the stinging blow of chastisement and the joy of forgiveness. My wickedly self-righteous heart had been changed by God reminding me, “as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren so you have done it unto me.”
Everything changed in that instant. Instead of looking for reasons to be disgusted, I started looking for cleaning products. I couldn’t find any, so my husband and I went on an errand and got loads of them. We got back and he went back to work on the air-conditioner and I secretly set to work in the bathroom. It was still BAD, but I had a new perspective and just started tackling the job.
It happened slowly at first – one person knocked, and then another. As I wondered what they must be thinking about me taking so long I started to chuckle. It took kind of a long time… let me be frank here – it took me a REALLY long time. There were lots of knocks on the door. People began to ask me if I was ok. Eventually I started to really giggle every time someone knocked (they must have thought I was having terrific problems in there!).
At long last I was able to emerge. It was good to be victorious over the muck that was in the bathroom. I never mind cleaning bathrooms now. I was glad for the chastening of God’s Word in my heart and truly glad for the change in attitude. I don’t mean to be crass, but now when I have a dirty job to do, I am reminded of that day and I think to myself, “If Jesus were coming I’d be happy to clean this bathroom for him.”
It was good to be victorious over the muck that was in the bathroom that day, but it was better to have the scrubbing and cleansing action that went on in my heart.
Giggling in the process? Well, that just had to make it more interesting for the people who kept knocking on the door – don’t you think?