“Oh, you’re here! Now we’ll have someone to help clean up afterward.”
These were the first words I was greeted with by one of my pastors at the ladies meeting I attended at my church last month. I was outside my usual circle, having made an extra effort to attend something I rarely have time for.
Even as a person who makes not being easily offended a top priority, I found these words a special challenge. The fact that they were followed by a quick “just kidding” and a laugh did not ease the sting. (FYI people, “just kidding” is not an eraser. If you say it, it means you shouldn’t have said what preceded it.)
Yes, it’s true, I do a lot of cleaning in my life. Not only do I have my own apartment where I clean up after myself and my three kids (with their help, yes, kids if you are reading this, I am not griping about you, YOU ARE A BIG HELP!), I make up for the deficiency in my missionary support with a two day a week janitorial job. Plus I moonlight and clean houses once or twice a month. Plus there are always things to clean up after a birth when I attend one, or at the birth center where I work.
For the most part, I haven’t minded. I’ve generally been grounded enough that my self-esteem and self-worth hasn’t been threatened by scrubbing toilets or other necessary labor jobs taken along the pathway of life. And, I’m deliberately trying to model for my kids, if you need money, work for it, whatever you can find to do. (I even sub-contract part of my janitorial work to them as their tailor-made economics class, but that’s another story.)
But after that comment was made, it got me thinking. Is that really how people see me in a social setting? Not a missionary, not a leader, not a lady, but the person who cleans the toilets? Does the fact that I am willing to do cleaning jobs for extra money somehow affect my image and cause people to look down on me?
As I pondered this (okay more like obsessed) two people thankfully came to mind. Gladys Alyward and Jesus.
Gladys Alyward was a British missionary who started out as a domestic worker. She was told by a traditional missions organization that she wasn’t qualified to be a missionary, so she saved her own money (from cleaning jobs) and went by herself to China where she became quite famous for all the right reasons.
Jesus, He confronted the job/image issue by washing his disciples feet. His disciples freaked out. They wouldn’t touch that job, lest it affect their images. And then Jesus went out of his way to do it, just to show them up.
“Hey guys, we are all supposed to be servants. And no amount of doing dirty serving jobs will taint you, or change who you really are- a child of God.”
And that really is the bottom line. What we do isn’t who we are. So we are free to take care of whatever needs to be done, at whatever level. The only people who will look at us differently are not people we want as friends anyway.
So, general public and random individuals who have stumbled upon my blog, don’t look down on the person scrubbing your toilet.
Or washing your feet.
You might just be getting shown up.
And hard working people, if you are the one scrubbing, or flipping burgers, or waiting tables, or throwing boxes in a back room somewhere…
Just think about Gladys and Jesus. You are in good company.