I heard the doorbell ring. I had just gotten out of the shower and was still in a towel. Gabby got out of bed to answer the door, even though she was not fully clothed either. It was my friend and her coworker coming to clean our house.
This was the first time I had ever paid anyone to come clean my house. And now that these ladies were here, looking things over, already washing the dirty dishes that were still in the sink, the embarrassment and guilt came over me.
I do my best to keep the kitchen and living room clean during the week and to keep up with laundry, and it seems to me like if I get that done each week, maybe I deserve a prize. But it had been a loooooooong time since I had done any dusting or any sort of deep cleaning—and it certainly showed. (Except to kids under the age of 18…they don’t seem to notice any of that at all.)
I had asked to get my house cleaned because I knew that I needed help. I knew that I needed someone to start the process to get the house back in the shape it needs to be in. Even though I was embarrassed, I knew I had to push through the guilt to ask for help.
I came home after work later that day, and the house looked good—shiny even. But all day I had been asking myself, “Why did I let the house get that bad? Why couldn’t I do a better job of cleaning?”
I cooked dinner, and the girls and I ate together at the counter. But before dinner was even over, Anna and I started arguing about something. (Which is a little odd, because more often than not, it was usually Gabby and I who were the ones arguing, and poor Anna was the one waiting for us to stop.) The argument escalated—the topic was a sensitive subject. Before I knew it, I was sitting alone at the counter, staring at the dinner plates. Anna had gotten angry and went to her room. Gabby didn’t want to be a part of the argument, so she had gone to sit on the couch and turned on the TV.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been heavy-burdened before, if stress and worry have weighed on you so much that you can’t move. I bet you have felt that. Some of you have even felt it for long seasons of months and years. On that day, I was in the middle of a long season of that.
People would probably say I should have made Anna come apologize and have the girls do the dishes with me. But I knew Anna well enough to know that she needed space in that moment. And I didn’t think it was fair to ask Gabby to come help when she already had had to endure the tension of that argument.
So I stared at the dinner plates, too numb to cry, but too depressed to start cleaning. Why do these things always happen with us? I tried to give myself a pep talk: “Mary, just get up. One step at a time. Put these dishes in the sink. Then put the leftover food in the fridge. Then wipe off the counter.” I closed my eyes. My energy was drained, and this was just one more dent on my bruised heart. “Mary, you can do it. Just get up.”
But then I heard Gabby call out to me, “Mary, will you come sit with me and watch this movie?”
I looked back at the dishes, but knew which I would choose. “Yeah, I will.”
I grabbed a blanket for us to share and cuddled up next to her on the couch.
I laughed a little as we started the movie. I thought, And this is why I’ve been struggling to keep my house clean.
I felt too much guilt for how I wasn’t keeping the house clean enough. After that day, I started making some changes to help. But I also reflected on what was happening in my life that made this challenging…
When your spirit is tired and crushed, it is so much harder to keep up with the demands of life. I wasn’t kidding when I told a few people that I wasn’t the best version of myself at the time. My heart is healing these days, and I can look back and see a drastic difference in how much more productive I can now be on a day-to-day basis.
I made it to the end of this season—or maybe I’m just getting a break right now, maybe this is just halftime. Either way, I’m happy that I chose to just hang on and love. I have no advice except to remind you that love always perseveres.
Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Mary is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.