When Cleaning Feels Futile
Today I performed perhaps one of my least favorite household tasks – cleaning the bathroom, and more specifically, the bathtub. The simple act in and of itself of cleaning the bathroom/tub is not what I detest. Sure, there is something incredibly awkward about bending over the cold, white porcelain of a 1920’s bath tub and scouring the bottom, sides, and nooks and crannies of this said tub, and then coming away only to find that, despite my best efforts, I managed to spray myself with water and at some point in the process allowed a sleeve (or two) to slide down my arm and into the half bleach-half dirty water clinging to the sides. I remember a friend of mine in high school whose mother suffered back issues – she used to hire Merry Maids for this one single task. And now that I have a tub of my own to clean on a weekly basis, I can’t say I blame her. But no, it’s more the knowledge that by the end of this day, my husband will have showered after returning home from work and my twin daughters will also have bathed before heading to bed. Don’t get me wrong: I’m extremely thankful that I have a family that stays (relatively) clean. But I can’t help but think of the fact that this very bathroom will see much use before the day is over as I scrub the tile floor, wipe down the mirror and sink, and sanitize the faucet handles and doorknob.
There are days when I’m feeling particularly unmotivated that I actually use this fact as an excuse to put it off another day: the second I’m finished, it’s just going to get dirty again any way, so why should I push myself to clean? After all, our house is not nearly big enough to have a portion of it that is never used and therefore, kept in pristine, museum-worthy condition. On the contrary, I would say any room in our house is far from that and looks very much “lived in” at any given moment of the day or week. While I have always wanted a house that is comfortable, cozy, and “real”, there are moments when I wish I could banish all family members (both two- and four-legged varieties) from entering the house for at least a 24-hour period after cleaning, simply so that I could savor the notion that the house is remaining tidy after all of my hard work.
Sometimes cleaning can feel so futile, can’t it?
And then there’s the size of our bathroom that adds to the dread of the task at hand. While having a “cute and cozy” bathroom such as ours definitely cuts down on the overall time required to clean it from top to bottom, the fact that all of its contents (including a tub, toilet, sink, linen closet AND a radiator) need to fit in a less than 12’ x 6’ area means a lot of hard-to-reach places. For instance, there is a small portion of the tile floor (less than 3” wide) between the radiator and the closet which I have yet to successfully clean since we moved into the house more than three years ago. My hand (not to mention my sponge) is simply too large to make the maneuver. As a person who finds great pleasure in a job well-done (specifically when it comes to cleaning my house), this bothers me greatly. I know that no matter how well I clean the rest of that small bathroom, there will always be those few areas that I just can’t get to.
As I crawled on my hands and knees to scrub the floor today (the final task of the project), I started to think about all of the dirt that would inevitably begin to collect the moment I was finished. And then I thought about forgiveness.
What if God felt the way I do about cleaning in regards to forgiving? Each time He forgives me, I sin again. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?
Or is it?
I’ve often thought about this as I leave the Communion rail after partaking in the Lord’s Supper at my church…how for that one instant, I am completely absolved of my sin. But then I stand back up and as I’m walking back to my seat perhaps my mind wonders to what I’m going to make for lunch when we return home instead of continuing my personal meditation. Or I spot a woman in a pew as I pass who happens to be wearing a particularly out-of-date style and I thank God under my breath that He’s granted me with better hair than that. Or perhaps I manage to make it back to my seat without sinning and then immediately lose patience with one of my daughters as she tells me that she has to yet again, use the potty.
He knows that I will sin again.
And yet God continues to forgive.
But just because God’s forgiveness is continual, His mercy enduring, does that give me the right to keep on doing things that make it necessary? Absolutely not. Does God ever wish (similar to me in regards to a clean home) that just for once I would stay “clean” for a longer period of time and therefore, allow His forgiveness to “last longer”? I have a feeling He does. Shouldn’t I abhor the idea of continuing to sin after being completely forgiven in the same way I would detest the idea of making a lasagna dish which would most certainly make a mess after recently cleaning my kitchen?
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ~Romans 6:1
I then think about that spot next to the radiator – the one that I have given up hope will ever be clean. Thankfully, there is not a corner of our hearts that God’s love and forgiveness cannot reach. When we repent and receive God’s forgiveness, this cleansing is absolute. Our heavenly Father never once said, “Sure, you can ask for forgiveness for some sins, but those others, ah yeah, I just can’t get over that.” He searches our hearts, He knows us inside and out.
And yet God continues to forgive.
In Psalm 130 we hear:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy…put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He himself will redeem (you) from all (your) sins.
Did you catch that? Full redemption. All of your sins. There isn’t a sin that’s too hard for God to reach. He forgives them all. Time and time again.
So perhaps the bathroom will remain clean until tomorrow morning. Or maybe it won’t. But today I thank the Lord that He continues to make my heart clean, day after day, week after week, and never tires of it.
I pray that I may strive to retain its cleanliness with more gusto and reverence than I would any room of my house.