Wednesday, September 28, 2011
We were driving home from our daycare provider’s house on Thursday. Mister called from the back of the van, “Mom, do you know what happens if you don’t wash your hands after you go to the bathroom?”
“What happens?” I asked, curious to know what new information he had on a subject over which we have a history of frowny-faced tug-o-wars.
“If you don’t wash your hands when you go potty,” he lengthened out his words for effect, and even though I was facing forward, I could tell by his voice that he was leaning his head into his words with big saucery eyes. “If you don’t wash your hands when you go potty, you get the Throwups.”
“That sounds terrible,” I said. “I guess we better wash our hands.”
I sent up a little thanks for the village and the smarterthanmom-neverheardthatbefore authority of the other people who love my children.
This morning I woke up bleary-eyed and foggy, but with the words to a little praise song spinning around: “Give us clean hearts. Give us clean hands. Let us not turn our soul to another.” Of all the things.
My house is functionally clean, though seldom tidy. I don’t use spot remover on the kid’s clothes, because if I did, I would be living in the scary basement room with our washer and the stain stick; when three children roll down a grassy hill for half a day, there is not really that much that can be done. We take out the garbage when the lid starts popping back up after I push on it. I am quick to pick-up their toothbrushes when I find them by the toilet. I try not to vacuum too often, because all three of them hate the noise and cower, screaming on the top buck under a blanket (which is slightly different than the rest of the day that they spend yelling and giggling on the top bunk under that blanket). I have even tried to convince myself that the ring around the tub looks nice and completes the mood we were going for when we put up the chair rail that separates the blue and brown halves of the wall. I am not proud of any of these things, but confessing them showcases my confusion at waking up singing songs about cleanliness.
“Okay, God,” I said out-loudish. “I will try to hear this.” Clean hearts lead to clean hands. Washing is biblically important, biblically symbolic, part of the communal experience. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13). He also let that woman wash his feet with her tears and expensive perfume (Luke 7). Specific directions for a basin were part of the Tabernacle architecture outlined for Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 30). And included in the directions was a warning that the priests must wash or die. Then there was the accusation by the Pharisees when Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow Moses’ rules. Jesus draws the crowd together and decides the issue: “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:10-11). “…for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34.
So, that is it, I guess. I want clean hands. I want a clean heart. I do not want to offer my soul to another. I want to speak a clean word, a true word, a word worth speaking. I want to speak from the heart, words seasoned with Christ. So I guess I will have to hand over the mop and bucket – a fearful act, if I am being honest.
I start to panic. I wince; tense my shoulders. And then I think He said, “You don’t have to be brave. You just have to show up. Let me do the work. I will be gentle. It really is time.”