I’m at my late mother’s house cleaning bathrooms. Her house is my rental property now, and the latest tenants recently moved out. As co-owner with my sister, who lives in Georgia, I serve now as property manager. That sounds like a fancy title, but it just means I do the grunt work — keeping the grass growing, the plumbing working, the walls painted, the furnace checked, the roof in place, and between new tenants, the toilets cleaned.
Yes, I clean toilets. I’m actually real good at it. Mama would be proud. She subscribed to personal pride, so she taught my sister and me to clean up after ourselves and take care of what God gave us. She and Daddy did that with a vengeance. No slacking was the mantra of their long lives.
So here I am, on a sunny Thursday morning, cleaning toilets — that is, the toilets of the next tenants, who are due to move in soon — and I’m working up a sweat. But the sweating feels just fine.
“Why don’t you hire a cleaning service?” a friend asks.
“Yes, I suppose I could do that,” I tell her.
Then I try to explain why I’m on my knees, with my hands in Playtex Living rubber gloves, scrubbing like a fare-thee-well at every crook and cranny of my late Mama’s porcelain.
It just feels right. But it’s also my way of saying thank you.
I thank God. For being God. For deciding, even before the fall of Adam, that we would labor in this life and that working would be good. As Genesis 2:15 tells us, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
In that spirit, my late parents worked hard and long, teaching my sister and me their ethic and also showing us how to labor — and to feel good about it.
Because of them I can tell a flat-head screw driver from a Phillips-head. I know why priming a wall is critical when painting it. I know that a plumber’s wrench works best in tight spaces. Yet if I didn’t know such housekeeping basics, I can hear my Daddy saying, Well, go find out.
I don’t take it lightly to have been born to such hard working, God fearing, home-maintaining people. They taught me perseverance and honored elbow grease. Now when I’m at my wit’s end, befuddled by a problem, I can see Mama and Daddy, with God’s help, making the effort to figure it out. For that, I am grateful.
I’m grateful they never gave up. Not on God, nor on themselves, nor on me. And as God well knows, I made my share of mistakes, messes, and problems. But thank God, they’d already done the right thing – introducing me to Christ. That was their priceless and greatest gift to me as a child. Such precious knowledge saves lives and in more ways than one.
As I roll up my sleeves and get to work, I’m reminded that God keeps working on us. We are buildings not made by hands. All of us, therefore, get leaks in our roofs, cracks in our walls, mold in our ceilings, and rust in our radiators. To fix us all, however, Jesus got scars on His outstretched hands.
He conquered hard work — from washing soiled feet to surrendering to the cross, all done for us. His hard work redeemed, cleansing us “from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Through it, He showed us what hard works means. As the Apostle Paul said:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord . . . since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
Thus, I’m at my late mother’s home, cleaning toilets and on my knees cleaning the floors because the Lord works even harder in us. It’s the least I can do to thank Him, and as I work, I pray that the next family that lives here will find a place to call home in Mama’s beloved house.