There are people I know who chuckle at the notion of hanging out laundry. They live in town, you see, packed into a small area where it would be embarrassing to advertise the holes in the armpits of the t-shirts you sleep in. The actually prefer the steamrolled laundry that comes straight from the dryer, the softness that is cultivated by the hot air and the convenience of just shoving things into the small space and having them miraculously dry in 60 minutes or less. “A whole day waiting for that load of darks to be done? Come on! Electricity isn’t THAT expensive!” Ah, yes, that’s right, it’s not.
Putting my clothes in the dryer, though, does not bring me closer to God and to my vocation as wife and mother the way standing in the grass, often barefoot or in my barn shoes, handling each shirt, each towel, each piece of laundry, does. Stuffing the clothes into the dryer, with its brisk efficiency and instant gratification, does not remind me of how much my daughter has grown in the last 18 months, or of how worn my husband’s jeans are getting. I don’t notice the way Miss Muffet’s pants are getting worn from falling down and climbing, or how her shirts are acquiring an interesting rainbow of stains from her new explorations. When I allow myself to give in to the ease of the dryer, I don’t spend time breathing in the fresh scent of the outdoors and thanking God for the beauty that surrounds me. I often neglect to think of how short my time will be with my family, of what a small drop in the pond I really am.
When I hang out laundry, I feel small, but in a good way, in the way that makes me part of something bigger than myself, something with more meaning than one person alone can have. When I hang out laundry, I’m reminded that there was life before there was instant messaging or email or cell phones, and that there will be life after. I’m reminded that the drama on-screen is nothing to what the dog has in mind for the raccoon families who are scoping out the big trees out front. Hanging out laundry brings me closer to God, and to myself, the self inside who enjoys sitting outside with a glass of lemonade and watching the sunsets.
This evening, hanging out laundry, I was also reminded of confession. I’ve been struggling with confession lately. I know the idea of it, I understand all the reasons of it. Where the tempter in charge of me (who has a name something like Globgoogle, I’m quite sure) has succeeded is in challenging me with the practice of confession. I’m just failing at it. As I stood there with wet towels and popped the clothespins on them, I had a vision of a big clothesline in heaven. God says, “Here, put all your sins here. Just hang them up. Tell me all about them. I’ll blow some wind your way and together we’ll air them out, get them dried up and folded and put away.” The God in my vision was telling me that yes, I did wrong, and no, it’s not OK, but it won’t get OK until I hang them up on the line.
Hanging things out to dry is a phrase we’ve all heard used over and over – but have we thought about it? I was considering the things in my heart and soul that need some sunshine to burn through them and other things that have been sitting in the washing machine way too long, getting wrinkles set into them and almost needing rewashed. I was thinking of the wooden beam in my eye and the planks (in everyone else’s eyes) that I’ve been distracted by. I was picking at the bitterness and resentment that have grown up, just like mold and with a similar smell, and thinking that the only way to get rid of them was to put a heavy dose of rewashing-with-extra-detergent-and-some-vinegar on them.
I can tell my sins right to God. But I can’t receive my penance and absolution unless I go to the priest. See you later! I have an appointment to make!