Home » Blog » Clothesline Lessons

Clothesline Lessons

Sep 22, 2010

Psalm 51.7

I’ve been musing about laundry lately.  Maybe it’s because God uses the most mundane things to speak to me.  No grandiose visions of heavenly choirs here, nope, nuh uh.  He speaks to me in a language I understand…the language of spot removers, sudsy water and clotheslines.

This post is for anyone who has ever prayed, “Lord, you may wash me on the gentle cycle, but please don’t put me through the wringer and hang me out to dry.”

Psalm 51:7 makes me think about my grandmother’s back porch.  It was home to shelves filled with Ball jars of jams, jellies and canned vegetables, a deep sink, and an old fashioned wash machine.  It was the kind of machine that was made in the 1940’s or 50’s, complete with an electric wringer attached.

-1To our modern 70’s eyes, that wash machine was awfully Old School.  My grandmother would start with the whites and work her way to the denim overalls, carefully putting each item through the wringer to squeeeeeze out the water after it had been washed.  Then came the task of hanging the laundry out to dry on a clothesline.  The job of washing clothes was laborious, to say the least.  There was no “multi-tasking” while doing laundry, because it took all your effort to get it done.

People in Bible times knew all about hand-washing clothes.  They may have used rocks and sticks to beat the clothing, and soap made from lye and animal fat.  So when David gives his heart-rending prayer in Psalm 51, after being confronted by Nathan over his sin with Bathsheba, he understands what is involved in being made clean.  Only he wasn’t talking about his clothes, but his heart.

It’s funny how a crisis can put the state of our hearts into a whole new perspective.  When things are just purring along, we sort of think all we really need is a gentle spot cleaning with a Q-Tip to keep our souls pure.  But when things start falling apart, we are faced with the reality of our own filth, our sinful pride, and our lack of faith.  It’s when things get uncomfortable, like losing a job, a relationship souring, or finding ourselves in a crisis of our own making, that we start getting serious about the condition of our heart.  I think sometimes God lets these predicaments happen so that we can get beyond our superficial prayers of “Bless me, Jesus,” to “Oh, God!  Do what you’ve gotta do to make me right with You!”

See, David is saying some really important things, here.  First, he says “wash me with hyssop,” which was a ceremonial way of purifying from sin.  The hyssop branch was what was dipped in lamb’s blood and touched to the doorposts during the Passover.  It symbolized purification from sin by the shedding of blood, a forecasting of the shed blood of our Savior.  Awesome.  It is only through the death of Jesus that we can find forgiveness.

Then he reiterates this by saying, “God, YOU wash me!”  In essence, David is saying “scrub me, pound me, put me through a wringer and hang me in the purifying rays of the sun so I can be as white as snow!”  He knows he needs more than a tender dabbing of the surface to be made clean….he needs the very fibers of his being to be washed.  He wants to be soaked and worked over by the hands of his forgiving God.

That’s where I want to be today. 

I don’t want to be content with a little dry-cleaning now and then.  I’ll take the agitator, and the wringer and the clothes pins if that’s what it takes to be where I need to be with my Lord.

Maybe you can take the time to read the entire 51st Psalm today…it’s so great! David goes on to ask for a clean heart, a steadfast spirit, and for the joy of his salvation to be renewed.  He understands that God doesn’t just LEAVE us in a state of penitence and sorrow, but gives us new life and hope in Him. 

Do you ever feel like you’re being put through the wringer? Take it from David: there is hope and new life on the other side.

Rachel Anne