In college, I only used the dresser in the dorm room once each year – when I moved in and my mom placed all the clean clothes I owned in the proper drawers. Once an article of clothing was removed from a drawer it never returned.
It just moved to the floor, where the dirty clothes gathered in two piles: those smelling good enough to re-wear and those not. Once the dresser was empty and no more items of clothing passed the sniff test, it was time for laundry. Once the clothes were clean, they were placed back on the floor in the restarted “smells okay to wear” pile. This pile served as a laundry account, where I would slowly (probably too slow, if we’re being honest) draw from my laundry account until I had no clean clothes left to wear.
After getting married, I was somewhat domesticated and laundry began forming multiple piles: dirty, lights or darks to be washed, washed but not dried, dried but not folded, folded but not put away, and finally – washed, dried, folded, and put away.
To me, Christianity is a lot like laundry – especially clean laundry. The dirty clothes are those things we know not to be true. Therefore, we have no use putting them on or dealing with them without first cleaning them up. These things are also pretty obviously bad – like old workout or yard work attire.
Then we have the clothes set to be washed. We’ve set them in piles based upon colors (or how soon we need them). These are ideas or thoughts we either aren’t sure whether are true or not, or they’re concepts we are beginning to think differently about as we apply the sniff test. We haven’t fully thought through these yet, but they’re next.
Next up is the load that has been washed, but is still sitting there. It hasn’t been moved to the dryer yet to complete the wash cycle. And if we’re not careful, someone else will pull them out of the washing machine and place them on the table – still soaking wet. These are ideas we know to be true, but we don’t fully understand. Most likely because we’ve read or heard it and not because we understand or have experienced it – yet.
After we dry the clothes, we now have a giant pile that needs to be folded. In college, this is where the laundry process ended – I just chose clothes from this pile rather than fold and put away. This is where most of my thoughts lay. Items and theologies I know to be true, but I probably couldn’t explain. I haven’t worked through these yet in my mind and am probably not comfortable talking about these on a regular basis, unless absolutely necessary.
Now the laborious process begins – folding. And once we’ve folded, we must still put them away. For people we are comfortable with, we don’t always put laundry away before they come over. We sometimes leave it out because we know they won’t judge. Similar to most key concepts in Christianity, we can easily share them in comfortable and familiar surroundings, but put us in front of people that we are trying to impress – or worse yet, we are intimidated by, and we can’t do it. We aren’t fully prepared and we have not invested in the commitment and discipline necessary to speak to all people – with confidence.
And the final stage of laundry is the best – the clean, folded, and put away stage. There are few moments in life when all clothes are clean and the dresser is full. But those moments are grand and peaceful and we have the full allotment of clothes at our disposal. The same could be said for our knowledge base of Christianity and the Bible. There are few topics we know – I mean know – and can speak authoritatively on. There are few moments of peace and enjoyment. There are few satisfactions. And we are unable to readily pull verses and concepts as needed.
Yet – it should not be this way. While the laundry is never actually finished (unless you’re a 300 pound football player at Clemson who washes ALL his clothes – I mean ALL), it doesn’t need to be thought of as a meaningless chore.
Besides the tangible benefits of completing the laundry, the process should be thought of as purposeful – we are deepening our understanding of Scripture, we are able to engage with other people, and we are learning more about who we are and who God has created us to be.
So – the next time you have three loads to fold, think – what could God be teaching me and how do I learn more about it.