Elbow Grease

I can’t imagine life without my Swiffer Wet-Jet.  Seriously.  How did anyone ever keep their kitchen floors clean before the invention of this marvelous tool?  Mopping requires way too much work.  And scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees?!  When (and why?) would I do that?

Next to my good-old-fashioned broom, the Swiffer is my best friend in the kitchen.

Yet, I must confess, I’ve been having some concerns recently about the condition of my kitchen floors.  I sweep on a daily basis, and I use my Swiffer weekly.  I feel like this should be sufficient.  Yet, lately there have been some subtle signs that maybe it’s not.

For instance, as clean as my floor looks after a cleaning session, my children’s socks are still dirty when they walk across it.  When I go to wipe up a small sticky or dirty spot on my otherwise clean floor, the wipe comes up with much more dirt than that one little speck should have produced.  And recently, when I was happily swiffering away, I noticed that some dirt was only swirling about on the floor, rather than being  picked up by the Swiffer.  I checked the bottom of the Swiffer:  the pad was dirty, so it was clearly picking up dirt.  I changed the pad, assuming there was too much dirt on it to effectively continue picking up dirt.  Then, as a test, I Swiffered the entire kitchen floor three times (with three different pads).  Each time, the bottom of the Swiffer was caked in dirt.  Hmmm… how much dirt was there on my floor?  How effective was the Swiffer?

Yet, my floors looked clean and felt smooth under my feet.  My floors are fine.  I convinced myself.

Then, just two days ago, I noticed a few white streaks across our cream-colored kitchen floor.  “What are those from?” I wondered as I went about my work.  Later in the day, I noticed them again.  My problem-solving skills kicked in as I assessed the situation.  I finally concluded that they were marks left from the chair that I daily pulled across the floor, from the table to the island.

I pondered these lines on the floor as I cooked dinner that night.  Once I determined their source, it took me a few more minutes to wonder why the lines were white.  Why not black or brown?  It would make more sense for a chair to leave a brown or black dirty streak across the floor.  As I stirred some ingredients together, more cause-and-effect thoughts entered my head.  Such as, “maybe the streaks are white because that is the true color of the floor.”  And, “maybe that’s why there seems to be an endless amount of dirt Swiffered up from off our floor.”  Because maybe, just maybe, the color of my kitchen floor is actually white, not cream?!

What?  Could that be?  Could my floors ~ the floors which I have swept and Swiffered ever so faithfully ~ really be white?

There was only one way to find out.  I grabbed a sponge and a bowl of warm water.  Focusing on just one little square of my floor, I scrubbed.  I put elbow grease into my scrubbing.  I then grabbed a white paper towel and wiped up the water.  The square was white (and the paper towel, brown).  Amazed, I scrubbed another square.  And then another and another.  What would happen, I wondered, if I used a cleaning agent? So, I grabbed a bottle of Clorox spray (reading the instructions to make sure I could use it on laminate floors), and sprayed and re-scrubbed the squares I had already cleaned.  They turned even whiter!

So, I began the arduous task of scrubbing my kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

That was two days ago.  I’m still scrubbing (not non-stop, of course).  On the one hand, it’s fun and exciting:  seeing our kitchen floor begin to truly sparkle and shine and watching, with satisfaction, the dirt wipe up right before my very eyes.  On the other hand, it’s hard work and time-consuming.  I much preferred the quickness of the Swiffer.  Yet, it feels so good to be truly cleaning our floors.

And as I’ve scrubbed, I’ve had time to think.  Scrubbing the floors is kind of like counseling (yep, I’m married to a counselor!).  It’s easy to live our lives sweeping and Swiffering and thinking everything is clean and in order.  Looking all nice and crumb-free and smooth and beige.

But what if we scrubbed a little harder?  Maybe there are little signs (like dirty socks and swirling dirt) that signal to us that there might be some dirt we haven’t dealt with.  Maybe it’s dirt that we’ve had a suspicion was there all along, but didn’t know how to get rid of it.  Or simply just didn’t want to deal with it.  We’ve convinced ourselves that sweeping and Swiffering up the surface dirt keeps us “clean enough.”

Or, maybe it’s dirt we had absolutely no idea was there, but through some sort of trauma, tragedy, or loss (the scraping of a chair across our lives), we discovered things weren’t necessarily what we thought.  Maybe we weren’t who we thought we were.  And we need some scrubbing to figure out what’s really underneath.  To get rid of the dirt that we thought was our reality.

Good counseling can do this.  But it’s hard to stick with it.  And it can be easy to settle for something that seems to be helping, but might only be cleaning the surface and swirling the dirt around a bit.  Something that gives us the sense that we are cleaning.

There’s a place for sweeping and Swiffering.  In fact, once I get through this task of scrubbing the entire floor back to its former self, I’m assuming that sweeping and Swiffering will help it stay that way.  Especially if I faithfully sweep and Swiffer.  Yet, I’m certain that occasionally I’ll have to get on my hands and knees again, because the dirt and grime will slowly start to build up.

Counseling use to have a stigma attached to it (and it sometimes still does), and it can be scary (because it takes time and effort and reveals things we may not want revealed!).  Yet, as I’ve watched my husband at work and have experienced his skill set in my own life, I see the need for deep cleaning internally.  To go to those deep places through counseling.  Where counseling isn’t an option, to go to those deep places with a trusted friend or mentor or in a group.

Because when we do, not only can we sparkle and shine in a new way, more importantly, we can discover who we really are.  Who God made us to be, underneath the dirt and grime that comes with living this life.

At the time I scrub my floors, I pray, my Lord, that I would not be satisfied with only surface cleaning in my own life.  May I have the eyes to see the dirt and the courage and strength to scrub through it, so that I may live life fully as You intended.

This entry was posted in Faith and God, Heart Ponderings, Self-Discovery, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Elbow Grease

  1. Jodacious says:

    Oh man! I was all ready to go out on by a Swiffer! I guess I am just going to have to get on my hands and knees-bummer! Seriously though, this was a great analogy to our lives Kim. (I might have to plagerize you in my mom’s group….they’ll think I am so clever!)

    • Thanks, Jodi! I still say it’s worth getting a Swiffer! Just know you’ll still occasionally have to get on your hands and knees. 🙂 And go ahead and plagerize me…I give you permission! You’re already clever, so that will come as no surprise to your friends!

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