I’ve been working on what might eventually end up as a book called Jesus does my Laundry. The premise is, more or less, than I am a young lady who has one whopping load of dirty laundry in my… I’d love to say past here, but let’s be real… I continue to drop globs of goop on my shirt every single day! The following is part of the basis for the new piece, which has about 50 pages right now. Here is part of… hope it’s a blessing!
The Laundry Gospel
I’ve been writing since I was young (because 25 is clearly older than dirt, no?), and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been really into words and metaphors.
I can’t imagine anything more fun than finding a metaphor for something that is hard to describe in words; to take an ineffable concept and mold it into a word picture is a beautiful thing, a work of art. One of my favorite metaphors, or actually, it’s more of a meta-metaphor (that’s the new word I just invented to describe a metaphor about metaphors), is one I thought of several years ago while trying to describe the process of putting words to a difficult idea. It’s like birthing beach balls. That is to say that trying to take a massive, life changing concept and package it neatly into black and white print is something akin to giving birth to something huge and cumbersome. It’s a true feat, and one that is incredible but simultaneously so exhausting that you’re simply too tired to do it again for a long while. And so it is with my metaphors.
I think we could agree that doing laundry is more or less a necessary evil. Sooner or later, you have to do it. For most of us, our clothes get stained. If you’re blessed with being super-clean, or if you wear black all the time, your clothes may not look dirty, but sooner or later, they will start to smell. And so, they must be washed.
I don’t know about you, but I’d never make it to the point of smelling. Many ladies may have a scuff here and a mark there, but not me. I’m more of the ketchup blob on the new white tee shirt, kind of gal. My chest only seems to be good for catching offending blobs of stuff, and when it’s sleeping on the job, my lap likes to play backup.
With that in mind, I want to come clean (no pun intended) on the biggest, blobbiest stain of them all in my life: I. Get. Ugly.
I don’t mean that when I take my makeup off, I scare small children. I wish that’s what I meant, but I rarely even wear makeup. No, ability to go from zero to ugly is my deepest, darkest secret. It’s that thing that no one knows, that no one would believe if they heard, until they saw it.
The ugly is my reaction when there’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s as if each stressor in my life is another brick on the load that I’m holding in my arms. I can handle two or three just fine. Four is taxing, but I’ll figure it out. But throw brick number five on and honey, you’ve just opened yourself a can of worms! I cry. I hyperventilate. I panic. I go completely into fright or flight mode and I try to do both at the same time. I get angry with myself and verbalize it. I just absolutely lose it.
Before you go looking for the key for the mental facility we talked about earlier, let me give you a taste of my last bout of ugly, which happened to be Wednesday of last week. It was, in fact, an ugly so ugly that it may forever be known as “that Wednesday” amongst those who experienced it with me.
My last 15 months have basically been a long bout of malnutrition. Even with my feeding tube, there are times that my body decides it doesn’t want to process anything I put in it. Until just a few days ago, I was functioning on several hundred calories and single-digit grams of protein each day. While my stomach has long since stopped growling, it’s a level of starvation that starts to mess with my mind. I cry much more easily when I’m not getting enough. I’m more irritable, more grumpy, and basically setting myself up to freak out.
And then, my stomach, which is affected by nerve damage, goes through episodes of severe pain. I likened it to being split it half… which, considering I’ve actually kind of already been split in half (I have a five inch vertical incision from where my tube was placed), I can honestly say that the real splitting doesn’t compare to the pain of this past week. That kind of discomfort makes me emotional after a day or two.
Two weeks ago, after my fourteenth hospital admission in eleven months, my parents felt that I needed better care and moved me to a nursing home. Do I need to repeat my age one more time? I’m surrounded by people many times my age who don’t know where or who they are and can’t bathe or use the bathroom by themselves. I have zero privacy, no quiet, and nurses and aides asking me very personal questions, round the clock. I’m the girl who was uncomfortable the last time the smiley face in my friend’s email signature mysteriously lost its nose. An unexpected move to a place like that is cause for a lot of panic and tears on my end.
My mom and I get along famously… we have fought all of twice, that I can remember. One of those times was Wednesday, and it was bad. Really bad.
Then, the nursing home called to tell me they were taking my disability money. Actually, it was being cancelled. The med that makes my pain level livable is expensive and only out of pocket. Sorry, kid.
Oh, and I’d only gotten four hours of sleep.
So, when a friend, “wanted to talk about something” with me, and when you understand that my lifelong experience of “I want to talk to you” involves my stepfather going off on me, and she wanted to talk to face to face which is very difficult for me to process…
Tears, panic, worry, obsessing… in short, ugly!
I don’t scream at people. I’m more likely to take things out on myself. But I did ask my friend if she was mad about fifty two thousand times, and I obsessed about what she wanted, I worried about what I had done wrong, and was she sure she wasn’t mad at me? This went on for hours until she basically say, “Oh. My. Word. It’s done. Off the table. Let it go.”
Now I was sure she was upset with me! I was all out at war with myself. I wasn’t angry, but I was overwhelmed and confused and completely unable to process everything at once.
You might be thinking, my goodness, that really is some ugly stuff. I’ve never done anything like that!
And, if I’m honest, that’s what I’m afraid you’re thinking right now. In fact, I’m afraid you’ve already put this book down and written me off as too crazy to know anything about helping anyone. This was last week, for Pete’s sake! Clearly this girl doesn’t know a thing about a functional life!
I’m going to speak truth into those thoughts. For one thing, I’m here thinking them about myself, and that isn’t okay. But for another, you may be directing similar thoughts toward your own story.
Back to thinking that your own ugly is just too ugly for Jesus, again? We talked about that, and this is where I’m going to remind you that there is no sin too great for Him! He came to redeem us from all wickedness (Titus 2:14). All wickedness… no matter how ugly.
Whether you’re a scuff on the shoe girl or the lady with the bright red blob of ketchup trailing down her shirt, it doesn’t matter how dirty your clothes are. In order to meet Him in heaven, only those with pristine clothes can come in. In this metaphor, Jesus is the only one who has any soap. He, only He, will wash your stains as white as snow.
Lord, thank you for meeting me in my mess. Thank you for washing my “ugly” as white as snow. I know that there is absolutely nothing that I could say or do that Your grace wouldn’t cover. There is no ugly too ugly for You! As difficult as it may be in the moment, Lord, please give me the grace to forgive others as You have forgiven me.