Piles of Washing
When my firstborn arrived in this world, it was to a caravan in a field, deep within the Kent countryside. As Kazy celebrates her half century this summer, we are talking about a very different era!
Aged 17, I had moved from suburban Bickley, having never done any clothes washing in my life, except for the occasional pair of stockings or pants, and here I was, miles from civilisation as I had known it, and certainly far from even a glimpse of a Laundromat, carrying every drop of water about 200 yards and heating it in a saucepan on a calor gas stove to do every bit of washing by hand, which was when I first discovered rubber gloves (yes, they had been invented then). I was the proud owner of a mangle, kept outside the caravan under a tarpaulin, which took over where my wringing-out hands feebly left off. And now, 7months later, piles of soggy sheets and nightgowns (no babygros yet, and with rubber pants still at a very rudimentary and crackly stage, everything got very wet, very quickly) and of course the terry and muslin nappies! – I had a galvanised iron bucket for them, stored outside with the mangle, which I used to boil them up in, at which time the caravan became an exotic sauna.
You might be forgiven in thinking I’ve really gone senile now, wandering off into the historical past; but I think this train of thought was probably triggered by hearing a day or two ago of a friend whose washing machine had broken down, and who was washing by hand, until the new one was delivered. As I remembered my early washing endeavours, it occurred to me that becoming a Christian for many of us from non-churched families, is a bit like moving from one ‘culture’ to another completely different one, as this experience was for me. Everything is so uncharted and strange to begin with, and sometimes quite heavy going until you get the hang of it, and your mind orientated – you have to improvise and adapt to begin with, until you learn the new ways. And of course then the joys and benefits of the new life seep in; for me in the caravan, doing the mangling to the accompaniment of birdsong, or the freshness of the air with snow on the ground, and the fun of nappies freezing to white square boards and trying to manhandle them inside a small space – as a new Christian, the joy of learning to walk alongside Jesus, experiencing his presence and recognising his voice.
Six years later found me with a twin tub. Washing was done once or at the most twice a week, and was a serious affair, and quite a palaver, using the same water for everything, the idea being that you started with the whites first for a hot wash, then whilst you switched them to the spinner, moved onto the synthetics as the water became cooler, then the coloureds, then last of all the really dirty muddy rugger kit or dusters etc. All this required that the washing had to be put into piles to begin with, according to its loading order. This brought to mind a day’s seminar I organised in the late 80’s at Ashburnham, with Lou Lewis, who had been sexually abused as a child, and who for the first time spoke and ministered to a group of men and women who had undergone similar trauma. The main thing I, and many others took away from that day was her helpful illustration for separating guilt from false-guilt, and dealing with the blame we often take upon ourselves for everyone else’s wrongdoings as well as our own. She spoke of the huge and overwhelming pile of wrongs and shame all jumbled up and indistinguishable like a whole mountain pile of washing, but that we had to separate it into different piles of responsibility, like we would separate the washing – what was perhaps our mother’s, our father’s, our siblings’, our grandparents’, the social worker’s, the teacher’s, whosoever’s……and probably what was left over then in our own pile was pretty small and manageable. (Please note that this exercise is definitely transferable to other situations where we have a tendency to take upon ourselves the responsibilities or sins of others!)
And then when we’ve done a whole pile of ironing, what do we do? Why, we put them into piles again according to their destination, whether it be airing cupboard or wardrobe, drawer or straight back on the bed. I was reading this morning from Ephesians 4 about how the pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets were not to do all the work for the people, but train the people to do the work themselves (there should be no couch potatoes in the church!) – they are to prepare God’s people for works of service, to build up the Body. And earlier in chapter 2 it tells us that we were created in Jesus to do the good works which God had prepared in advance for us to do – it’s not all haphazard, we need to be in the right fresh-smelling pile, not someone’s else’s pile, and we’re not in some nameless unrecognisable heap, nor overlooked at the bottom. God has got it all sorted – he has meaningful jobs and works of service for us all, that will complement each other and all hang together- it is God’s sovereign purpose and all planned out.
Must dash, and find what pile I’m in next!