Have You Done Your Laundry Lately?
During February and March of 1998, I had the experience of trying to walk in my wife's shoes.
I was taking a break, having left my pastoral responsibilities in Vancouver, Canada, and before launching full steam ahead with CCM. I felt a total change of pace and agenda would restore my soul and renew my perspective in ministry. I needed to do something radically different from my usual ministry of speaking, writing and caring for others.
During those couple of months, while my wife was serving at CCM, I volunteered, after my wife's repeated dropping of hints, to do the laundry.
Since we didn't have a washing machine at that time, I had to go to the laundromat. Now what can be simpler than doing laundry at a coin-operated laundromat? All you need to do is to put the dark color clothes into one washing machine and the white ones into another; pour in a cup of laundry detergent; put in a dollar and twenty-five cents, and you are in business.
Well, I was in for some surprises.
One time, when I opened the lid of a machine at the end of the washing cycle, I saw white powder on the clothes. Yes, the clothes were wet but I still found plenty of detergent left on them. I didn't know what to think or do. Should I put in another five quarters and do it all over or should I transfer the whole thing as it was into the dryer? Helplessly and wishfully, or is it more appropriately for a minister to say, prayerfully, I put in another five quarters and waited for another 20 minutes, the time it takes for the washing cycle. Later I was told that I must have either put in too much detergent or too much laundry or both.
The bottom line is: I did not know how to load a washing machine properly.
In the meantime, the other load was done. Should I wait for twenty minutes and put both loads together into one dryer, which is what I usually do, or should I dry this load first and then do the other one later in another dryer? Decisions. Decisions. Why should a simple thing like this bring so much stress to one's life?
Another time, I started my usual two loads and went to the car to read. I came back to the machines after 20 minutes, expecting to transfer the clothes to the dryer. One load was done, but the other one was just sitting there. In fact, the machine had not started in the first place. Why? Dismayed, I opened the lid to check the clothes. They were dry. I checked the lever on the machine, the metal handle which holds the five quarters needed for each wash, and discovered it was not pushed all the way in. In my haste, I had not pushed the lever far enough to activate the machine. I had not stayed long enough to make sure that the "in use" light was on before I dashed out to my more important and brainy work, reading a facinating book on the wisdom of the body.
The bottom line is: I did not know how to start a machine properly.
Still another time, after I did my two loads without any incident, I put the clothes together into one dryer. Usually it takes three quarters, each quarter being good for ten minutes, to dry my two loads. But on this particular day, I found out that the clothes were still damp even after the third cycle. When I touched the inside of the dryer, it was cold. I distinctly remembered that I had checked the temperature control knob to make sure it was on "hot" before I pushed the red button to activate the dryer. The reason I remembered so clearly was because that was one of the things my wife taught me during my apprenticeship. I came to the conclusion that something was wrong with the dryer.
I had checked the knob but not the machine -- the inside of it -- to see if it was hot. If I had checked the inside of the machine after the first cycle, I would have known that the dryer was not working properly.
The bottom is: I assumed too much.
Doing the laundry may sound simple. Doing the laundry may in fact be simple, but there is still more to it than meets the eyes. I am a living testimony to that fact.
These laundromat experiences have had a cleansing effect on my soul. For starters, they remind me that simple tasks in life are usually more difficult than they look. They remind me of my humanness: my limitation, my inadequacy and my imperfection. More, they allow me to appreciate the mundane things, like washing, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, that so many ordinary folks have to do day in and day out. Needless to say, they awaken my appreciation for my wife who has provided for me countless services during our thirty years of marriage.
I hope these experiences will teach me to appreciate others even more and to be more patient with their imperfections and weaknesses.
The Bible teaches about esteeming others better than ourselves. I think esteeming others is made a little easier if we have the opportunity of walking in their shoes.
Have you done your laundry lately?