Today I finally have to face it--the mountain of laundry that I need to sort and wash and dry and fold and put away.
As I took some dirty clothes from the bathroom floor and laid them on the altar of the dirty laundry basket--an offering of my frail humanity--this phrase played through my mind: "Laundry is a part of a good liturgy."
[Nerdly side-note: The word liturgy is from the late/medieval Latin liturgia--"public service"--but look a little further back and it comes from the Greek leito ('public/of the the people') + ergos ('that works'), leading to one popular definition in liturgical circles: "the work of the people." (Read more here.)]
At my age (good old 32), I have learned that I need a rhythm in my life to keep things rolling smoothly, an intentional liturgy or a personal rule that keeps me going through the highs and lows of life in these busy times. Spiritually, I am tempted to two extremes--doing EVERYTHING at full speed, or doing NOTHING with all that I am. Having a personal rule for my spiritual life has been key in keeping me close with God even though I don't have the energy to do it like I did in youth group or college.
I have thought, of course, that this could extend to my physical chores as well as my spiritual disciplines, but today I have had a clarity--specifically about laundry--that I wanted to process and share.
"Laundry is part of a good liturgy."
Every day, more clothes get dirty. Every day, the pile in the laundry basket gets higher. Every day, my family members (not naming any names) leave their clothing in odd places around our house, and at the end of the day, I try to collect it all in one place.
We have to wear clothes--it's the law, you know--and we will get them dirty, whether it be by sweating or playing in the dirt or spilling spaghetti sauce on them (as I look in the mirror). It's just a consequence of living in this beautiful world. Dirty laundry means that we are living.
Ignoring it, as I am wont to do, doesn't help things. The pile just grows, and I find it harder and harder to dress myself and my children because all our normal outfits are waiting. Waiting. Waiting to be sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away. (Or at least a few of those steps, in some semblance of an order.)
When I finally convince myself that I cannot wait any longer to do the laundry, and when it finally all gets clean and put away, it is an amazing feeling. It is remarkable how good and how free I feel when I get it done! But I admit, the hardest part can be realizing that the day I spent doing all this laundry still resulted in more dirty clothes...which is annoying.
This morning, I thought about the parallels between getting laundry done and going to confession. (Protestant friends, stick with me for a little analogy.) Going through this life, I am inevitably going to gather dirt and food stains and sweat on my clothes, and it is no different than with my soul. I am human, desperately in need of God's grace and kindness, and even though I have a sweet personal relationship with Him, my soul needs to get sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away pretty often.
Going to confession is doing my soul's laundry. If the accountability for doing my family's laundry is not having them around in stinky clothes (or no clothes at all), the accountability for going to confession is to take care of my soul's needs--getting right with God, a priest to walk me through the process and proclaim the forgiveness of the Father over me, and to urge me to walk in the newness of life into which I was baptized.
Daily, sin accumulates like stinky socks and spaghetti-stained shirts. It's just a part of life, even as I try my best to love God and to love others and to stop spilling my food on my chest. Going to confession regularly is a good liturgical practice, just like doing the laundry when toda la ropa is in need of cleaning. And how good it feels to confess my sins and to seek God's forgiveness. It's like washing my favorite shirt and leggings--I love putting them on when they are fresh out of the wash.
Most of the time, I can let laundry go for a few days (...weeks...) before I have to do it. But there are days when my almost-3-year-old poops in his underwear and it can't wait. Same with confession. Sometimes there is poop in my soul that has to get cleaned out by confession and forgiveness so that I can be knit further into my community.
Laundry is a physical and spiritual act of service to my family. Confession is a physical and spiritual act of service to God, myself, my family, and my neighbors. Confession links me to the local church, keeps me in relationship with my church, and makes me closer to Jesus. I get closer to Jesus not because it's about works-based salvation, but because every relationship is predicated on open communication about wrongs and rights and joys and sorrows. And the confessional is a big gateway into good communication with God. Hear me--it's not the only way, but it is a big way.
It's not good works for the sake of salvation. God is the soap. Confession is a washing machine. I let His word wash over me and clean me and tell me that I am forgiven and dry me out in the beautiful, life-giving fiery sun.
But who can endure the day of His coming?
And ho can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner's fire
And like launderer's soap.
Also, I have to say that laundry is a beautiful thing. Literally. When I was looking through Pixabay.com for a stock photo of laundry for this post, I saw some of the most beautiful shots of life (see for yourself here). Laundry on the line, outside people's homes, all over the world. It is a human reality. It is our souls' reality.
Now I have to actually go do my own laundry. Peace to you all.