Washed Clean

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By the time my missionary girlfriend finished saying, “Come to the Dominican Republic and encourage our women,” I’d already purchased my plane ticket. A gathering of sisters and seekers, ready to hear more about Jesus? I was so in.

“They dress up for church,” Ali cautioned me. “Skirts, pantyhose, and heels.”

Wasn’t it hot there? Yes it was, even in November. Highs near 90, and humid as well. Determined not to whine, I packed my favorite cotton outfits and headed for the airport.

One hour after I landed in the Dominican Republic, I was in love. The people were warm, gracious, kind. Their houses were painted like flowers. Their hearts were wide open.

A small group of women from the U.S. had flown down for the weekend to help with the conference. We filled the church van on Friday morning and headed for town, eager to see the ministry’s new sanctuary.

I pictured a freshly painted building, still smelling faintly of sawdust. What we pulled up to was an old brewery, still smelling faintly of…well…lots of things.

A Vital Urban Ministry in the DR

The plan was to decorate the sanctuary for Saturday’s event. As we climbed out of the van, I imagined putting out tablecloths and fresh flowers. Pitchers for iced tea. Plates for cookies.

When they opened the door, I did my best to hide my dismay. It looked more industrial than spiritual. And the concrete floor was (sorry) filthy.

Still, the space had character. Fabulous windows with huge, rustic shutters. A low platform with a vintage rug and piano. But something had to be done about that floor before we filled the place with women in their Sunday-best shoes.

Open Windows, Open Hearts in the DR

“Let’s tackle the floor first!” one volunteer said brightly. I smiled, thinking what a grand idea that was.

Then they handed everyone a broom. Including me.

Here comes the ugly, embarrassing, I-hate-to-tell-you-this part of the story. I have been invited to speak at hundreds of churches, but I’ve never been asked to clean one before I spoke. So, while I was smiling on the outside (or at least trying), on the inside I was thinking, Seriously? You want me to wash the floor?

I could hardly do otherwise, with my American sisters joyfully diving in. One woman threw soapy water across the concrete, while we came behind her with our brooms, pushing the dirty water toward the door.

This might have been more effective if the floor was level. Instead, I’d sweep the water forward, only to have it come swooshing back, soaking my white sandals and splashing on my white eyelet skirt. My brand new, bought-it-for-the-trip skirt.

Washed Clean in the DR

Everybody else was having a blast, singing praise songs as they worked. Me? I was one sweaty, drippy, unhappy camper. By the time I reached the area directly in front of the platform, I’d had it right up to my mud-covered sandals.

“Lord,” I grumbled under my breath, “I’m the guest speaker. Can’t they get someone else to do this?”

His response pierced my heart. I thought you wanted to serve me, Liz.

My eyes filled with tears. “I do, Lord. I do want to serve you.” Wasn’t that why I’d come to the Dominican Republic? To serve Him by loving His daughters? What was I thinking, putting myself above His other servants?

Forgive me, Lord. Please, please forgive me.

Jesus told his followers, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). I was the one who needed washing, not the floor.

Yet Christ, because of His mercy, chose to “wash away all of my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). My pride, my stubbornness, my judgmental attitude. All of it.

Overcome with sorrow, yet grateful to be forgiven, I tackled the floor with renewed vigor, singing and laughing with the others, as we turned a brewery into a sanctuary.

The next morning, three hundred women came, dressed in their best clothes. We spent all day together, studying God’s Word. It was joy unspeakable.

Near the end the conference, I invited women to come forward for prayer. Slowly at first, and then in greater numbers, they left their seats to meet with our prayer team.

But not the women in my front row. One by one, they bowed their heads and knelt beside their chairs on the concrete floor. Yes. Right. There. In front of the platform.

See? God whispered. You washed the floor for them. 

Beautiful Sisters in the DR

The Lord is ever good, ever patient, ever kind. Every day. Every place. Every time.

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

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  1. 1
    Kristen says:

    Thank you Liz for being so open and willIng to share this with us this morning. I find myself struggling often with the same mindset, as I go through my daily chores around the house. Your story sheds new light on my ordinary situations, it opens my eye to viewing what I am doing as service to the Lord! Very encouraging , thank you!

    • 2

      Thanks, Kristen. When God nudges me to write about my less-than-lovely attitudes or actions, I always pray it will somehow minister to my sisters. He is ever faithful!

  2. 3

    Liz,
    I love your honesty! It’s easy to serve the Lord when we get to do the fun stuff, but often He asks us to roll up our sleeves and do the nitty gritty stuff that takes hard work and sweat. He washed others’ feet. He asked you to wash the floor. Thank you so much for a beautiful reminder to not let my pride get in the way of doing the Lord’s work. He is so good and merciful all the time. I need to be all in, even if it’s something I fear or want to flee from. Needed this, this morning…
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      Grateful for your response, Bev. My pride OFTEN gets in the way, but God is beyond good to keep forgiving me and working on me. His grace truly is amazing.

  3. 5

    Thanks for the vulnerability, in that we truly grow! Great practical application!

  4. 6

    Such a beautiful post! I needed this reminder that we often times say we’ll serve God but not when it’s dirty work. I wonder how many of these beautiful moments of serving God I’ve missed all because I wanted what is comfortable?

  5. 7
    Lawan Rivera says:

    Wow! What a story. God is so good to always remind us of why we are here. Thank you for always being so honest and transparent.

  6. 8

    Liz Curtis Higgs, you make me laugh and cry at the same time! What a wonderful story!! Our God teaches us in ways that are unexplainable. Thank you for being such a servant. You are a blessing!!

  7. 9
    Melissa Smith says:

    Good Morning Liz,
    Thank you for being willing to share one of your human, not perfect moments, so that we could learn and be lifted up as well. I’m so pleased to read how God was glorified and your group was blessed by that clean floor! This God-filled moment brought tears. We are His servants , thank you for reminding me WHY. Again, thank you for being willing to be open and share truth and your heart! I so want God to be seen in my life as well, and like you, sometimes, I know that’s not always the case. But God took a tough situation and was Glorified in it! Brought all of you closer to Him! Love the many ways He Works! :) Be Blessed my Dear Sister!

  8. 10

    Liz, thanks for your transparency here. I suspect we all have areas where we’re asked to serve when we’d rather someone else did the actual work. I need the reminder to be willing to serve NO MATTER the job God gives me. Because it will help and bless others. Thank you for sharing.

  9. 11

    very very nice..good stuff and a well learned message..more people who serve the Lord need to hear this message..Jesus after all was humble not above others..and look who he was ! thankyou for being so honest..very nice to hear this message.

  10. 12

    thank you liz for being you. i needed to hear this.

    God bless you

  11. 13

    This reminds me of the story that Joan Chittister tells. An older sister, who had been working in inner-city Erie for years, said to Joan–”If you’re serious about working here, do this first.” She then took Joan to a decrepit house and said, ‘Start here. Clean this house from top to bottom.’”
    Joan said that there was a cockroach in every conceivable place–at the bottom of every cup and bowl and vase and….
    When finished, she knew what she would be facing and said YES to it. She’s still there these many years later.

  12. 14

    So profoundly honest. Liz, this was lovely.

  13. 15
    Lynn Morrissey says:

    Oh Lizzie (I hope I may call you that)!
    There is just so, so, so much to this post. I am immeasurably touched by your honesty, obedience, and joy in the Lord. How often have I been an unhappy camper because of some trifling inconvenience, or thinking that as a speaker, while not needing to be pampered in a five-star hotel, I need time, space, and respite to ready myself to minister. I would have thought, “I don’t have time to sweep floors; I need to rest up and review my speaker’s notes. What’s going on here?” The Lord challenged you, and pricked your heart, and you so beautifully, humbly, graciously responded. You ended up reminding me a little of Snow White, in your white garb, whistling while you worked ! :-) But seriously, you realized that a speaker-servant is never above those to whom she ministers. How could anyone who listens to her take seriously what she says, if she is not willing to practice what she preaches? A mentor of mine, Florence Littauer, always practiced servanthood, and by her example, encouraged servanthood in others. I will never forget her example (even though she was dressed to the hilt. :-) Turning a corner, I was so excited, too, to read that you ministered in the DR. We have just adopted a little three-year-old boy there via Compassion Int’l, and what a dream it would be to meet him there one day in person. Maybe we could sweep the floor of his house for him. I also loved learning how these precious women dressed in the DR wiorshiped in their Sunday best. While God most surely looks at the heart (as you discovered), there is something just so special about putting *our* best foot forward to honor Him when we come into His house to worship. It speaks volumes. Thank you again for such a beautifully written and beautifully lived-out post. It helps me in so many ways . . . to want to come clean in my heart and confess my pride, to want to minsiter in any way I am asked whatever the task may be, and to willingingly accept and accomplish the quotidian quotient of un-glamorous tasks in my daily round as a wife and mother. Lizzie, you humble me, you challenge me, and I am indebted.
    Blessings,
    Lynn

  14. 16

    WOW. I LOVE this. Thank you for the reminder that even the smallest detail or gift of service can be used for God’s glory.

  15. 17

    I have to say, after being a believer for over 30 years, this verse hit me like a brand new convert. Me!! He shows His immense patience through me!!! The long-suffering, beautiful, patient, kind, gracious patience ground home through the cross can be shown through me and the washing away of my sin. Every day.
    Not sure I’ll be able to get up off the floor for a while.

  16. 18

    Wonderful lesson in humility… the place we always find our Father waiting for us…

  17. 20

    Liz, I love this post so much! Thank you for sharing!!

  18. 21
    Heidi Steinrock says:

    It seems that time never dulls the notion that putting our “best face” on for the world is the “wise” thing to do. After all, who wants to see the junk, the flaws? That would just discredit us, right? Ahh but not true, as you showed in 1 Tim. 1:16 and through your testimony here. THANK YOU!

    I love that one of the things God does for us is cleanse us. I’m reminded of Ps. 119:9, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” We all have a desire to be cleansed from the yuck that’s latched onto us– otherwise the psalmist wouldn’t have been asking how to get clean. And I’m so glad God has the solution to that desire. He sure does fill up every need we have. God bless!

  19. 22

    Wow! I have goosebumps because I was just at this brewery turned sanctuary in the Dominican this past July with other women who flew down to help Ali and her team at their church and their ministry Mercy Jewelry. I felt very connected to your story…. Thank you for taking the time to share and for helping to take part in what is now a lovely place of worship for those people.

  20. 23

    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a entertainment account it.
    Glance advanced to more introduced agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

  21. 24

    Stingy eyes, Liz! Open them, Lord, so I don’t miss opportunities like this!!!!

  22. 25
    Cathy Gross says:

    Well Sis, you got me. When you started telling me you felt above washing that floor, I saw self diving in to clean it up and was amazed at your pride…and was immediately convicted of mine. Please forgive me, I am so very sorry. I know God already has, we talked.
    Isn’t that the thing with pride, it just sneaks up on you so quickly, with stealth and strength!
    Thanks for sticking your neck out there and being honest and transparent. I like you Liz, you are one special sister!

  23. 26

    Such beautiful glimpses of God in your writing. Wow = I am humbled by your honesty and authenticity.

  24. 27

    So revealing. So vulnerable. So like all of us in our fleshy hearts, until God cleans house. Bless you, Sister Liz, for sharing your dirty laundry we can all relate to.

  25. 28

    Liz, read this the morning after scrubbing the preschool area of our church. Yes I grumble, but I know Sunday morning the area will be filled with little ones eager to hear about a God that loves them, and one day they may be a missionary or pastor that will bring many to know Him. Knowing a parent has brought that child so they can have a moment to worship and lighten their week. I then feel blessed for the opportunity.

  26. 29

    I will admit I get a lot more excited when they announce the kick-off for fall events for Women’s Ministry than I do when they announce a Saturday to clean up the church and the property!

    Thanks for reminding us to have the right attitude!

  27. 30
    Donna Lee says:

    Not a day goes by that I do not think of you Liz and read something of yours to inspire me to read the bible more, ask questions, laugh or cry over something so real to us gals! Love ya !

  28. 31
    Valerie says:

    Stumbled upon this blog, maybe for a reason, I don’t know, good read.

  29. 32
    Beth Williams says:

    Liz.

    Love your open honesty today! It is so easy to want to serve God our way and often times He wants us to do “dirty work”.

    For a few years I was involved in a local “Kairos” Ministry–it is based on walk to Emmaus. The team would go to the local state prison. We’d stay at a local church and the women did all the cooking. We fixed breakfast for the men going into the prison, then lunch and dinner for both men and prisoners on the team. Every prisoner-even those in solitary confinement got 1 dozen home baked cookies. The prisoners on the team each got a special “birthday” cake with their name on it. At the end of the weekend the women and some others coming up for closing would go into the prison and sit with the prisoners. It was amazing to hear those prisoners talk about the weekend, why they were in prison and to look at some of their drawings. They were super appreciative of the food we cooked for them. It was a humbling experience.

    Blessings :)

  30. 33

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  31. 34

    Good for you! Ministry on the business end of a broom is what all of us need more of!