Amid daily tasks, one duty remains most important

I heard the doorbell ring. It was my friend and her coworker coming to clean our house. This was the first time I had ever paid anyone to come clean my house.

Now that these ladies were here, looking things over, already washing our dirty dishes, the embarrassment and guilt came over me.

I do my best to keep the kitchen and living room clean during the week and to keep up with laundry, and it seems to me like if I get that done each week, maybe I deserve a prize. But it had been a long time since I had done any dusting or any sort of deep cleaning — and it certainly showed.

Even though I was embarrassed, I had asked to get my house cleaned because I knew I needed help.

I came home after work later that day, and the house looked good — shiny, even. But all day I had been asking myself, “Why did I let the house get that bad? Why couldn’t I do a better job of cleaning?”

I cooked dinner, and the girls and I ate together at the counter. But before dinner was even over, my teenage daughter and I started arguing about something. The argument escalated. Before I knew it, I was sitting alone at the counter, staring at the dinner plates. My younger daughter had gotten angry and gone to her room. My older daughter didn’t want to be a part of the argument, so she had gone to sit on the couch and turned on the TV.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been heavy-burdened before, if stress and worry have weighed on you so much that you can’t move. I felt that way often those days.

I stared at the dinner plates, too numb to cry, but too depressed to start cleaning. Why do these things always happen with us? I tried to give myself a pep talk: “Mary, just get up. One step at a time. Put these dishes in the sink.” I closed my eyes. My energy was drained, and this was just one more dent on my bruised heart. “Mary, you can do it. Just get up.”

But then I heard my daughter call to me from the couch, “Will you come sit with me and watch this movie?”

I looked back at the dishes, but knew which I would choose. “Yeah, I will.”

I grabbed a blanket for us to share and cuddled up next to her on the couch. I laughed a little as we started the movie. I thought, “This is why I’ve been struggling to keep my house clean.”

When your spirit is tired and crushed, it is so much harder to keep up with life’s demands. But these days, I remember Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” It’s OK to pay someone to clean while I persevere to love in this season.

Mary Nolen is director of women’s and children’s ministries at Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine. She is author of She Won’t Shrink Back: A Story of Building and Believing. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.