By Arloa Sutter
“Your book changed my life!”
My heart jumped out of my chest! Yes! I thought. It’s what every writer wants to hear.
“Tell me more,” I urged. “What was it that impacted you?”
I assumed he was responding to my challenge to get involved in serving the poor. Or perhaps it was my chapter on stewardship. Maybe it was the theological perspective I wrote about or my call for churches to be “compassionate to the core.” I awaited his response with nervous anticipation.
“It was that part where you said your kids knew they could find clean clothes by looking in the clothes dryer.”
I have to admit I was surprised and mildly disappointed. Laundry?! I had connected with him over LAUNDRY? THAT was what he remembered? I have been interviewed on many radio and TV shows about my book, The Invisible, but no one has ever brought up my dirty laundry!
I had written about a season in my life when my kids were young and I was overwhelmed, on the brink of burn out. “The house was always a mess,” I wrote. “I had stacks of papers everywhere. I was eating too much of all the wrong foods and feeding my young children crackers all day long. The laundry was never folded and put away. The kids learned they could find clean underwear in the clothes dryer amid wrinkled shirts and slacks. Time alone with God had become nonexistent.”
I knew it was more than laundry he was relating to. We had connected because in the harried busyness of life, things like laundry, overflowing sinks, messy basements and disorganized closets become symbolic of our chaos. He resonated with the lessons I learned about not taking on too much, about making sure I scheduled time for reflection and solitude, about taking notice when my stomach tightens with stress, about learning to step back, to say no, to focus on what God is calling me to do rather than rushing ahead with my frenzied activities.
I wish I could go back to those days when my girls were little and relive them. I’m a grandmother now and I see my daughter under the same stress. I want to say to her, “Take your time. I know life is chaotic with young children in the house, but these days will pass so quickly. Slow down. Relax. Ask for help. You have all the time in the world to do what God wants you to do. Take time to cook a great meal. Do some creative art projects with your kids. Read a book together. Don’t let these days pass you by in frenzy. Somehow carve out time alone to listen to that still small voice of God.”
I know… it’s easy for me to say now that I’m a Gramma, but I earned this wisdom from my own hurried mistakes. Sometimes the best way to live out our influence is to fold those clothes gently and put them in the drawers while our kids sleep.
Arloa Sutter is the founder and executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries and the author of The Invisible: What the Church can do to Find and Serve the Least of These