Cleaning before Being Cleaned


There’s something radically new in my life: a young woman comes every other week to clean my house. It’s pretty weird. But I’m getting used to it.

I was telling my husband about a book I was reading,  The End of Your Life Book Club — the story of Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will, and the books they read and discussed during her final two years. As I explained their background, I said, Well, they lived three doors down from Julia Child. And Mary Anne worked full-time, back when moms typically didn’t work. But she must have hired a housekeeper because all they did was read on the weekends and you KNOW that someone had to clean toilets.  And Curt, bless his heart, leapt into this opening he had been waiting for to suggest that we hire a house cleaner.

So Jamie comes and I gather scattered books so she is cleaning and not picking up. I work on a deep-cleaning project while she’s here. To me, it’s akin to paying a piano teacher when you mostly need accountability to practice.

But, here’s the thing: the instinct is so strong to clean up myself before I get help. It’s neat to clean (Next to Godliness is my favorite soap from Trader Joe’s) but this is more about self-protection and perhaps some self-deception. I see this tendency in my life in other areas. After I lose 15 pounds, I’ll go to the doctor, I promise myself.

Years ago, I participated in a foot-washing ceremony. A group of women circled their chairs and the friend on the right got on her knees and dipped my feet in a large bowl sudsy with warm soapy water, washed, rubbed, and dried my dirty, stinky feet — a profoundly unforgettable encounter. It struck the same emotional response in each of us. We were happy (happy! happy!) to wash a friend’s feet, but our heart screamed No! when it was our turn to be washed.


5 thoughts on “Cleaning before Being Cleaned

  1. My first experience with a foot washing ceremony moved me to tears. Humility is tough, something I lack. I love that Jesus set an example for us in both strength and humble leadership.

    Yay for having a cleaner! What a blessing.

  2. Yes, learning to ‘take’ isn’t easy after years/decades of ‘give’. Yet, taking graciously & thankfully is a gift to the giver, I’ve learned. It was our cleaning lady who pointed my husband & I to Christ over 30 years ago!

  3. I don’t think I could let someone wash my feet. (I don’t want the hairdresser to wash my hair, and if anyone wants to end a relationship with me, just give me a spa gift card.) But my heart went pitter pat when I read that your husband suggested you hire a house cleaner.

  4. I am relating to your post on so many levels. I had a friend and her daughters come to help me clean recently. It was very humbling to allow them to see the grime built up in my kitchen! I have a vivid memory of a foot washing service. One of the participants was an older lady with Down’s Syndrome. I was so moved when my friend Mary knelt down to wash her feet first.

  5. Oh Carol, we are of like minds on this topic!
    Good for your husband to take action and get some help.
    Praying you can enjoy the opportunity of a housekeeper and be good to yourself.
    It is very hard to let others do for us, but a gift to them when we do…now to follow my own advice.
    love and prayers, jep

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