My washing machine broke in the middle of the semester.
Isn’t that how life is sometimes? It wasn’t a life-altering thing. It was a most inconvenient thing that happened at a most inconvenient time, though.
To put things in perspective, I am a single mom, and the biggest lie I have lived out is that I have to meet literally everyone’s expectations of me and meet every need I see. The second lie I have lived out is that I have to do all that work alone.
So, here I am, working and trying to help people fulfill their own potential and I mention to my neighbor that I have to squeeze in time to go get my laundry done since my machine is still busted. To my surprise, she tells me to bring my laundry to her house and she will wash it. A million things flash through my mind in that moment. She didn’t offer for me to use her washing machine. She offered to wash my laundry.
Now, I have a nearly teenage boy in my house. She is aware of this fact. She offered to wash my laundry. I am intentionally repeating myself, because at that point, that is what my brain was doing. Out of pure shock, it kept repeating the fact that she just offered to do my laundry.
Then, when the initial shock wore off, I started to think of all the reasons I didn’t want her to do my laundry. I didn’t think she should be fulfilling a responsibility that was mine, but then I remembered Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” To admit that I need help is to be vulnerable, but then I remembered that God created us for community and that we are not meant to carry everything alone. There is no grace in that.
I also thought about the sheer volume of how much dirty laundry I had. I had not washed anything in a week and a half due to my broken machine and my stretched-thin schedule. It was like a mountain of dirty baggage I was carrying around, wondering when I could tackle it. I knew my son was going on a retreat that weekend and needed some clean clothes. I really did need help!
But then, I thought about the fact that my underwear—my underwear—were in that laundry! She looked at me and asked if I were going to bring my laundry over. I looked at her in all honesty and said, “I don’t want to!” She gave me a stern look and said, “Let someone help you!” In that moment, I knew that my sister did not care how messy my laundry was, how much of it there was, or even how intimate she needed to get (underwear!) in order to help me get that burden off my shoulders. She loved me and wanted to help me.
Jesus is always with us and working good in our lives, but sometimes, we simply need someone with skin on. That woman was a living, breathing manifestation of Jesus for me in that moment. We stared at each other for a moment, and I am sure she had no idea any of this was going through my mind as I fought back tears of gratitude. What she didn’t know was that I had been crying on and off all day long in frustration and stress. I don’t know if she realized at all what a huge deal that was for me when I relented and allowed her to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
This whole encounter is so reflective of the journey I have been in over the past 3 years of learning how to allow safe community—my faith community—into my life and my heart, so they can help carry me to Jesus when I can’t do it myself. Someone prayed for me just a few hours before this encounter, that God would send people to help hold up my arms like Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms during that great battle in Exodus 17. I think my laundry-washing sister was a direct answer to that prayer. It also taught me a deeply formative lesson.
We are always told never to air our dirty laundry. But, what if we are meant to allow others in to help us get it washed clean again?
Patricia Taylor is the managing editor for the Soul Care Collective and the editorial assistant for Seedbed.com.