Friday, July 19, 2019

Reflections from the Laundromat

Cinderblock walls and tile floors greet me when I enter. Smells of laundry soap, fabric softener and a diaper that hitch-hiked a ride through the wash permeate the air. Ceiling fans wobble overhead and attempt to cool the just barely comfortable room. Distant news channel and commercials are dimmed by the whirl and spin of machines working hard. A wall of windows letting in loads {pun intended} of natural light and an aqua clock ticking on the wall bring a somewhat homey feeling to the otherwise sterile room.

Wire clothing carts, blue plastic chairs, rolls of quarters and time to sit and wait.

A crepe myrtle blooms outside and cars whiz by on the sweltering summer afternoon.

Circular windows give insight into sudsy, agitating water removing dirt from a sleeping bag too heavy to wash at home. I’m reminded of being a child; I thought going to the Laundromat was fun. I would play “ice cream shoppe” with each circular washer and dryer door representing a different flavor of ice cream.

Colorful clothes, textures and all of the stories represented in them swirl around like a hamster on a wheel. It is somewhat mesmerizing and appealing but likely only because I don’t have to do it all the time. 

Maybe one reason I don’t mind the Laundromat is because I can be anonymous. Earlier that morning, I walked two of my children in to Vacation Bible School and tried to keep my heart light, soft and happy. We had attended this place of fellowship for the last sixteen years but in recent weeks have been visiting a new body of believers. This has left me feeling both anonymous in a new church as we begin to connect and also conspicuous in the other as friends' faces and voices reflect disappointment in learning of our change.

After feeling flustered and on-the-spot that morning, anonymity in the afternoon felt safe and welcome.

Perhaps I also appreciate the slowing of sitting and waiting for the dryer to heat, spin and dry fibers – I fish a pen out of my purse and scribble ramblings that come faster than I can write.

Or maybe it is the wondering about the lives of others who walk in and out of the doors. The bottom line is that we experience humanity at the Laundromat and are on common ground, because - don’t we all have dirty laundry? Both literal and figurative kind.

That same morning, I read of the Golden Rule during my Quiet Time {see Matthew 7:12}  – I will smile at the woman folding her clothes on the blue speckled table, help the white-haired man in the bright orange t-shirt figure out how many quarters he needs and feel grateful for the artsy-looking employee who breezes in and straightens all the carts, sweeps the floors and empties the trash cans, because that is what I would hope for if the tables were turned.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m aware that these washers and dryers with their see-through fronts are like our hearts to God. He can clearly see what’s inside and He is at work cleansing and purifying. We are not hidden from Him. And, just as I discovered this particular week was “dry-your-clothes-for-free-week,” so He has paid the price for my cleansing. Lord, take my junk, my dirty laundry to Your heavenly Laundromat – use the gentle cycle to purify the uncleanness there and remind me of the many blessings that clean laundry and a clean heart represent.

Phrases from verses tucked away for everyday application float through my mind:

“Wash me and I will be whiter than snow…”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God…”

A quick peek through Psalm 51 brings other words: blot out, wash, cleanse, purge and restore. Words like these give me hope - stains can be removed and cleansed, wounds can be healed, and my heart can be restored because of His work in and through me. 

Obviously I got more than my twenty-four quarters worth of wash done in this one afternoon. The sleeping bag is clean and dry but the quiet and reflection was also a great gift for my heart. Looking for God in everyday moments is not only a joy and privilege but a responsibility.

Thank You Lord for the Laundromat lesson and for caring enough for my heart to want it to be clean and beautiful for You.


Lisa M. said...

We have recently left our church that we have attended for 13 years. I am having the same feelings that you are! It's been a big change, but my family truly enjoys our new setting. Thanks for sharing.

Mom said...

Oh my goodness - I love these "reflections from the laundromat!" As you know, I've spent a fair amount of time at the laundromat this year. I, too, appreciated the anonymity and felt the common experience of dirty laundry with those around me. I prayed for the people there with me and considered how hard it must be to be raising young children and always have to do the family's laundry away from home. I am more grateful than ever for my washer and dryer at home!