Cleanse me with hyssop
My family and I recently returned from a series of epic road trips which means: epic laundry. As I soaked a couple of new Columbia outdoor wear shirts in a cocktail of Clorox and Oxy, I realized two things. One, I must be slightly maniacal to be a mother of two young children who prefers to wear white while hiking, biking, and over all “momming.” The other realization? That lately I’m obsessed with stain removal.
It’s true. I’ve found strange satisfaction in soaking impossible stains – sometimes for multiple days in a row. What can I say? I guess I don’t get out much. I’ve wondered if maybe it’s a subversive rebellion against our culture of disposable goods – I’ve long been a fan of Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! But while those are important values, it is more likely that this habit has something to do with my need for control.
These past hundred days have been replete with uncertainty. When will businesses open and how? What about schools? Will we ever have a vaccine and can we trust it when it comes? When can I hug my friends again – or pass the peace? There are many question marks at the end of big sentences these days. And so, I seem to be channeling my energies and hope for positive outcomes (maybe even some displaced rage) onto clothing and linens with grass stains and permanent marker dashes.
There are other ways to seize control, of course. Some organize closets, others might exercise profusely, pour themselves into work, or maybe even obsess over numerical arenas – budgets, investments, caloric intake. I told you mine (well, one of them!) and I know that it is not a solution, but merely a distraction. Sometimes it is satisfying to transform a dingy boatneck shirt into a clean one, but I’m not always successful. So, when I set down a kitchen towel that is not going to recover from its chronic mildew condition, I am reminded of my own constant sin predicament.
There are some things about being human that a human just cannot fix. Wash me, the Psalmists says in Psalm 51, cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean. This is a longing not only for purification, but for wholeness: something I find myself pleading for on a frequent basis in this time of global pandemic that yawns on without a certain endpoint, not to mention the constant threat of illness and possibly death. It gets the best of me sometimes – times when I want more concrete solutions or future projections and instead get information that resembles a moving target.
Navigating our Covid-laden reality gives pause to also think of the state of humanity; full of faults, fear, ignorance, and unknowing. These truths are sobering and can be irritating, too. But they are also a reminder of our creatureliness –and our need for and dependence on the One who made us. There’s never a bad occasion for revisiting the Psalms, and this particular moment led me to Psalm 51. Create in me a clean heart, O God, we cry with the Psalmist. And in that scriptural prayer we remember that it is God, not good detergent, which makes us whole.