This morning after dropping the kids off at school, I came back home and began clearing plates and crumbs from the table. Since I fed the children a healthy crumb cake breakfast, there were naturally more crumbs than usual. (There is a valid reason why it is called crumb cake.) But it was the brown smudges and smears all over the walls and chair rail and kitchen door that caught my eye more than the crumbs. How have I been living like this? Amid such dirt? Wait, nevermind. I live with Charlie Doyle, a real life Pigpen. (The kid’s record for being clean is probably two minutes, after being scrubbed by the delivery staff on the day he was born.)
So after I loaded the dishwasher, I grabbed the Pine-Sol® from under the sink. I haven’t touched it in months. Ashamedly, I am not a ‘cleaner’, by any means. But something had to be done about those smudges; I had obviously become desensitized to them. (And bless Husband’s heart, though I am sure he is not desensitized to them, he has chosen to not be a nagger. God love him.) Anyway, I mixed some Pine-Sol with hot water, grabbed the sponge, and pulled on my yellow cleaning glove.
With wrung-out sponge in hand, I started with the door and wall next to the table and gradually made my way around the kitchen. And let me tell you, some of those smudges were not surface smudges… they were deep. Even with the miraculous ‘power of Pine-Sol’, I was having to put some real elbow grease into it. Who knew wiping smudges was such hard work, I thought. I am actually working up a sweat. (I need to exercise more!) And then I moved into the hallway. And next, into the bathroom. And then I said out loud to my dog (because she was the only one available):
You never know how dirty something is until you start to clean it!
And then I thought how true that statement really is.
Whether it’s a messy house or a messy marriage, an estranged relationship or a broken childhood, a darkened past yearning for a brighter future… sometimes you never realize how bad it is until you see how good it should and can be. How dirty it truly is until you put your gloves on and begin the cleaning process. And in some ways, I imagine that’s how God sees our hearts. He sees us in our broken stages, and His true desire is to help lift us out of them, to release the grime and muck and dirty smudges. To make all things new. Not with the power of Pine-Sol, but with the power of his Spirit.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
~ Ezekiel 36:26
Last night, a dear college friend was in town for a conference. She and another friend of ours dropped by for a visit after dinner. As we spent time with one another on our deck, I was thinking I should just have asked her to spend the night, but because of the chaos of the middle-of-the-school-week, I hadn’t. And then I thought how Henry’s room, which would have been her room for the evening, wasn’t exactly inviting or homey or welcoming at the moment. I am just not ever prepared for that kind of impromptu hospitality.
This is what Henry’s bed looked like when I gave my friend a tour of the upstairs (despite me not really wanting to take her up there) since it was her first time in our current home. “Shan… it’s me,” she had said. And she’s right… a college friend has seen you at your messiest, literally–and clean rooms are not what life is about, right? So as I led her from room to room, I tried to remember that, but it was still embarrassing. Every — single– room…was messy. Like, really messy. But this is supposed to be a blog about finding beauty in the messy, so I can’t be too hard on myself and have to practice what I preach.
So at the end of the night, my friend ended up driving away and spending the night in a hotel. Which, if I had it to do over again, I would have cleared that bed, put the fresh sunflowers from downstairs on the nightstand, and invited her to stay for a sleepover. So what is it that kept me from doing that? From clearing the mess out of the way to make room for a friend?
What keeps us from ‘reaching for the Pine-Sol’ and putting in some elbow grease, if just for a bit, to make room for something better? It took me a mere 15 minutes to wipe those door frames and chair rails clean. And the kitchen and hallway now smell like Pine-Sol-y lavender goodness, a fresh reminder of how it feels to actually clean. And I imagine that to begin the healing work on other messy areas in our lives, we could get a lot accomplished in 15 minutes. Whether it’s approaching someone whom you’ve hurt…or offering unmerited forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. It could be taking the first step in saying ‘I’m sorry’, or removing ourselves from unhealthy relationships or habits that only leave us smudged. And it could be lifting your face to Heaven to finally surrender and ask forgiveness for smudges you have long held onto, afraid to come clean. But there is power available when you do. And it’s much more than the power of Pine-Sol. It’s the power of grace and mercy and forgiveness and healing. The power of clean… true clean, regardless of how deep our smudges were.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
~ Psalm 51:10
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
~ Psalm 51:7
It dawned on me, as true as it may be that you never know how dirty something is until you start to clean it, there is a reciprocal of that as well:
You never know how clean something can be until you free it from its dirt.
And whether it’s the walls in our hallways or the real messes in our lives, there is power and freedom in removing the smudges. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until it’s too late.
And that, dear friends, leads me to the Pine-Sol lady… because this message truly was ‘brought to you by Pine-Sol®’.
She rocks. I heart her and want her for my friend.
And little did I know that modern-day Pine-Sol® is all about empowering women. Just for fun, I visited their website, and it really did refresh my morning (who knew?!). Check it out if you’re in the mood for some cleansing. Pine-Sol Lady will be happy that you came.