The beginning of each year usually has a pattern for me. After Christmas and New Year’s Day are over, I put the Christmas decorations up in storage over the course of several days. By myself. We try to make holiday decorating a family affair, especially putting ornaments on the Christmas tree. But taking the decorations off the tree, wrapping the delicate ones, and placing them in boxes is a solitary endeavor. Then, my daughter Riley and son Jed have birthdays in January less than two weeks apart. So, I end up doing a deep clean of the house because both of them will have friends over for parties or sleepovers. The whirlwind from the holidays through the birthday preparations is pretty chaotic and exhausting.
Recently, I was in the middle of the pre-birthday party deep clean. Honestly, I was a little irritated because I didn’t feel overly appreciated. No one had even mentioned the disappearance of the Christmas decorations earlier that month. Now, I was on my hands and knees with the vacuum cleaner hose going around the edges of the carpets and baseboards. My husband Ben was fulfilling another role by carting the kids back and forth to numerous activities. But I still wondered if anyone would notice my intense efforts to clean the house.
While I was down on the floor, vacuuming and scrubbing, I started wondering about our view of God. We often imagine God on a throne like ones we’ve seen on tv or in movies, a distant king looking down on us from on high. But what if, instead of a deity who may or may not grant an audience with us when we need help, God is actually down on his hands and knees in the floor with us helping us clean up the messes of our lives? Perhaps he notices our efforts to deal with the consequences of our actions or those of others. He sees us reeling when we experience unexpected, life altering circumstances. And he is with us down in the muck.
Jesus confused people because he did not try to wrest power from the religious leaders or government officials. Instead, he hung out with regular people, some considered undesirable, and even washed his disciples’ feet. Where did that servant leadership behavior originate? Not from a God who was unconcerned or unengaged but from a God who is willing to help us do the dirty work.
How would our approach to God be different if we thought of God as intimately involved like this in our lives? The other day, I made a mistake, acted in a manner that was unbecoming, and did it without thinking beforehand. I felt guilty and sorry and hoped that not too many people had witnessed my behavior. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change what I’d done, but the rapidity with which I’d acted, without forethought, bothered me greatly. I needed to work on myself, so I wouldn’t repeat my automatic actions. I imagined God sitting with me in the floor looking at a spot of sticky, gooey gunk that won’t easily come off without some serious scouring. “This is going to take some work,” God might say. Yes, changing my heart and mind so that I won’t react so poorly, so quickly in the future will take a good, long scrub and may need to be repeated a few times to really get rid of it. God is not like Cinderella’s fairy godmother who waves a magic wand to fix everything instantly. But he will help me as I figure out how to change, deal with consequences, and do better in the future. God won’t leave me to do it alone.
After I finished the vigorous birthday party cleaning, I was tired, dirty, and sweaty, but I felt content that the house was clean. I knew it would only last for a little while and that it would be messed up again quickly. Just like life. But I’m thankful that God is always ready to help and guide me as I clean up again and again as often as the dust accumulates, the dirt piles up, and the filth gathers in life. I envision him giving me a wink and a hug and nodding as we roll up our sleeves together.