Sometimes, you learn new things. Things about cooking or cleaning or health or whatever. And as you’re trying so hard to take care of this wonderful family God has given you, this thing seems like it’s a good fit. You do all the research, you purge the ‘nasties’ that lurk throughout your house, and you settle into new habits and routines to keep your husband and kids healthier. You take notes from the Proverbs 31 woman and work hard to care for the home where your family dwells.
And that’s wonderful!
Sometimes, God starts to put other things in your life. He puts people there who need your time and encouragement. He puts ministries there that call you away from the house. And he puts trials on you that force you to slow down and let go of some things.
And we try so hard to keep up our routines, to stay on top of these healthy and beneficial habits that are oh-so-good for us. But that’s not always possible.
Sometimes, the house that I’m called to care for, takes a back seat to life and family and ministry. And as much as it pains me to say it, things can get… gross.
Today, I pulled back the curtain on the dirty little secret lurking in my bathroom—my shower. The scuzz had slowly compounded during this trying and busy season we finally seemed to be clearing. Crud—my only term for an unnamed substance that made my eye twitch in irritation—had collected throughout the tile and grout of the walls and layered unevenly within the tub in mottled patches.
Oh, yes. It was that bad.
And I had tried all kinds of things to get us back to a clean slate… er, shower. Strange concoctions of castor soap and essential oils that smelled like rain in a forest or spice jars in the cupboard. Good old recipes of dish soap and vinegar and other ingredients grandma would have used. Even fancy name brand products that the lady at the party insisted would take it right off. But time had passed, attempts had failed, and it had only gotten worse.
Today, I was done.
So, I pulled the menacing yellow bottle out, the one that all the crunchy web-sites warn will poison your children and screw with your hormones and kill all of the aquatic wildlife within a 20 mile radius. The one with the warning label a foot long. The one that I had cringed as I paid for it last week. The one I put off buying for month cuz I kept thinking that I will be able to figure out something more ‘natural’ to deal with this. The one that made me want to cry just for considering using it in my home.
But I was over feeling like I was losing the battle for my bathroom, of feeling as if there was something unholy or less spiritual or at least lazy about using such a weapon. I steeled my nerves, opened the window, pulled on the rubber gloves, and I went to war on my shower.
I sprayed hastily before I could chicken out, layering the thick white foam, allowing it to melt ominously down the walls, watching it leave bleached trails through the filth that it attacked. I pulled out the small green pad and scoured it quickly, drowning the now brown foam in buckets of hot water that turned by entire bathroom into a sauna of noxious fumes. I squirted it again and again, waging battle after battle against the taunting filth. And when I finally declared the war over, only the drain stopper itself showed remnants of the minerals and build up that I had finally beaten. For the first time in longer than I care to admit, the tub is pure white, the tile is sunshine yellow, and the knobs actually have a little bit of shine.
And I thought to myself, Martha would be proud.
See, God takes us through seasons. Just as he lauded Mary for recognizing the limited time she had with Him and making full use of that, we go through times when we have to focus on things outside of our home. They might last a week, such as vacation Bible school. They might last a month or two, such as planning major ministry events or caring for the grounds of the church building through the summer season. They might last longer, such as trials that He walks you through to teach you dependence on Him. And we come willing to listen and learn and serve in the way He needs right now. And some less important things slip through the cracks.
“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
As Ryrie puts it- There is no milk without some manure. Some disturbance is the price of growth and accomplishment.
We must recognize that these amazing periods of trail and growth are necessary and good. And while in these times, we can’t do everything. Something has to take a backseat for a time.
And then that season ends.
Yes, Martha should have sat at Jesus feet and listened to His teachings from the moment He entered. He reminded her where she needed to be and I believe she learned from that instruction. But, even if she had started out at His feet, eventually, the dishes had to be done. Eventually, the laundry had to be washed, the house had to be swept, and the tub had to be scoured. And maybe it would have been a little thicker, a little more built up, after the time away. Maybe it would have required something a little stronger than just good old elbow grease.
The issue was never how Martha did the work. It was about her heart. About recognizing the need of the moment, the season that she was in, and making full use of the time of blessing and learning that God gave her. And recognizing when that season had passed, and other needs had to be met.
I think she would agree, that maintain our routines and keeping on top of the mess is best. And she might nod along with the idea that the natural and less abrasive might be better for the regular days. But I think she would have my back when I say that sometimes you have to recognize the need of the moment; even if that moment might need the terrible-toxic-no-good cleaning spray.
So we pull on our rubber gloves, get down to business, and trust God to care for the health of our family while we get back on top of the manure. Then we simply try to stay ahead on the more mundane duties He has given us for this period.
Lord willing, I will now be able to use my ‘all natural’ products to keep my shower clean. By His strength, I will fall back into good routines that will prevent the need for an all out war against soap scum and hard water deposits and grosser things.
And if not, I still have two thirds of a bottle of nasty, horrible, nature-murdering spray lurking under my cupboard.
May my heart be sensitive to whatever needs there are in that moment.
(This post is an encouragement to check your heart before the Lord and be sensitive to where He has you right now. I understand that an ounce of prevention saves a mile of stiches, or however the metaphor goes. And I’m sure that you have a lovely little tip or all natural product that you adore using. Please, keep right on using it. I’m okay without it. Thanks for reading, dear one!)