That’s the word. Agitated. The way you feel when you’re being tossled around from one thing to the next and you want to come up for air and have a breather, but you just get bumped again. Yep. Agitated. The word that describes how it feels to to get bumped and to either not be able to do anything about it or to choose to remain quiet and appear to not respond to the agitation because you know it’s the right thing to do. And that can make one feel even more agitated.
That’s the word for the part of the washing machine that bumps and moves and twists and turns the laundry in a relentless cycle. First comes the water and soap, and the laundry is twisted and turned and dirt is loosened and makes a murky mess as it mixes with the water in the washing machine. (I’ve seen lots of interesting things float to the top during this time…gum wrappers, matches, paper, plastic barretts, leaves, and lots and lots of dirt.) The agitator rotates and jerks the laundry to continue to loosen the dirt, and then finally the cycle stops. The dirty, murky water drains out of the machine. All is quiet…for a few moments…and then, MORE agitation! There it goes again, that agitator just keeps moving that laundry around. The rinse cycle commenses and ends with more and more agitation.
And then, like a miracle, the laundry is actually…clean.
Agitator Cleans More than Laundry
Clean. Sometimes being agitated brings the yuck to the surface. Like laundry tossled relentlessly in the washer, at times in life we get bumped and moved and mixed up with things we just don’t want to be mixed up with. And oh, the things that come to the surface! No fun to see. Sometimes an agitator looks like a two year old who is very good at saying “NO!”. Or an agitator may look like a husband or teenager with a remote control who changes it everytime you get interested in a show. Or an agitator may be the man you married who happens to be disagreeing with you (how dare he?!) on some not so unimportant issues. Or it can look like the faceless screen of a computer that just doesn’t seem to understand what you’re trying to tell it to do! It can look like a coworker who rolls her eyes or a toddler who throws peas on the floor. Whatever face your agitator may wear, the buttons are pushed, and they await a response from the agitatee! (You!…or me!) Oh, the lessons learned by being agitated! It can shame or embarass or make us want to hide to see the “dirt” or negative responses that difficult circumstances can bring up in us. But you know, I think there may just be some value in these agitations…
So here’s the thing. Maybe the bringing things to the surface and seeing things face to face is an important step in helping us to wash that dirt away and come clean of the ‘yuck’ that we didn’t even know we were wearing. SEEing responses is a beginning, but dealing with them and wanting to ‘come clean’… that’s the dealing that leads to the healing. The agitation leads to the revelation of the fact that something needs to get cleaned. Unless we see that, we may be walking around a dirty mess! I have a lot of examples of this, but will give you my favorite one.
Case in point: One night when my children were all elementary age and younger, I had rushed to church for trio practice. My friend Janet, who was single at the time and was always dressed professionally and beautifully said, “Heather, you have spaghetti on your shirt.”
I said, “I know, “(thinking it was spaghetti sauce), we had spaghetti for dinner…”
“No, Heather, you have a spaghetti NOODLE on your shirt!”
And there it was, a long, cooked noodle draped on my left shoulder (where a 1 1/2 year old had been 20 minutes before!)
We laughed so hard. Anyway, case in point that I was walking around with some dirty laundry that needed to be cleaned, and was totally oblivious to what everyone else could see! I was thankful for Janet being an ‘agitator’ that night!
We all have areas where we need to “come clean” and grow in the freedom that comes from leaving negative patterns or sins behind. Psalm 51 is David’s response to finally seeing that he was walking around in some very ‘dirty laundry’. David has just been agitated. Big time. A prophet has come by and pointed out a lot. It wasn’t just dirty laundry. It was serious sin. After walking around in it obliviously for awhile, David finally sees it. He faces it, deals with it, repents and cries out to God. And do you know what? He comes clean by coming dirty. He comes clean by being cleansed in a way that he could never do on his own. He cries out:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.”
He goes on, and then in verse 15 he prays,
“Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.”
So on those agitating days (or weeks!) when nothing seems to be quite going my way and I’m seeing the ‘yuck’ come to the surface, there’s a place I can go. I can pray for God’s unfailing grace and mercy. I can ask for forgiveness, and cleansing. And I can get up and be thankful that the things coming to the surface don’t have to take hold of me if I will but take hold of the grace that covers and washes me whiter than snow. Instead of fighting the little agitators and their many faces, I can see them as a mere vehicle to help me grow in grace, to see that my responses matter and that the agitators are not the enemy…sometimes they are the very things that teach me patience and kindness. They give me lots of practice. Practice makes perfect…or at least helps us move in the right direction! I will not pray for agitation for sure. But I am thankful that God doesn’t let us walk around like moms with spaghetti noodles on their shirts for all to see! He helps us see and deal with the dirt, the things in our lives that are impacting others in a negative way and shines a light on them so that we can leave them behind. And he uses many, many, many little agitators along the way to help us to come clean. By coming dirty.
This one’s for you, my dear friend…You know who you are! Thanks so much for the time today to catch up and for the honesty and desire to be loving well in a world that thinks it’s okay to walk around in dirty laundry. Love ya!