I was walking with a colleague — a mid-morning 0.6 mile walk we complete in 9 minutes and 10 seconds — and we ventured into the topic of raising children and husbands. (Yes, husbands, too.) Somehow it led to my mentioning the frustration of cleaning the kitchen counters before leaving for work in the morning, only to find them a mess when I return. Then cleaning the counters to prepare dinner. Then cleaning the counters after dinner and before bed, only to awaken in the morning to find them a mess yet again.
(This is the real reason people live alone.)
But my friend Sharon told me I simply needed to train my husband and remaining at-home, now-adult child better.
Aloud, I lamented my yellow, Formica counters that were not yellow with age but could be. They are that old. Instead, they are stained from grape juice and red wine and coffee. I have ruined more clothes than I can count using bleach or Tilex or Comet to remove the stains — only to have the work undone with the next spill or splotch of purple liquid. Lately, I’d given up trying to get rid of the stains. It was enough to have the counters clean. Perhaps I could pass my retro yellow counters as purposely tie-dyed with purple rings…
“I have given up,” I told Sharon.
“Have you tried the Magic Eraser?” she asked me.
I had used Magic Eraser on a number of special tasks and projects through the years but couldn’t remember ever trying it on those daily, mundane tasks such as wiping counters.
“It is wonderful,” she said. “I’ll bring you one.”
I felt a bit guilty, knowing I probably had an old one somewhere in my house, but I allowed Sharon to give me one the next day.
As soon as I got home, I put it to use on my counter stained with rings and drip marks.
Magic Eraser + cold water + a little bit of elbow grease = yellow Formica in all its glory
I told Sharon how well it worked the next day, and she mentioned several other uses for the white miracle sponge.
I easily wiped down the counters — yes, still multiple times a day, but without that sense of futility. I had a tool that could make a difference. By the end of the weekend, I had wiped down porcelain sinks, erased all traces of stain from the coffee pot, cleaned bathrooms, and even attempted the grout on the bathroom floor. It was like having a Magic Eraser. (And I made sure to buy a large box of them when I went shopping.)
What struck me, though, wasn’t just how magical this tool was. What struck me was that I had had a Magic Eraser or two or ten — but I had never used it to combat the daily film life left all over my house. I only used the tool when nothing else seemed to work.
It made me think of football in which a team entered the final minutes of a game behind — so far behind it made a comeback next to impossible — and the team won anyway because they played with herculean effort, using all the tools in their toolbox, caring enough to play to perfection. What if they had applied those tools throughout the entire game? Throughout the entire season?
It also reminded me of my early days as a widow. In those days of sorrow, I leaned heavily on God to get me through the loss — because I had nothing else. I used extreme measures, herculean efforts to cling to God, to trust Him, to see His hand in the midst of what most certainly seemed a mistake. And I got stronger through it, able to see how God could work everything — even tragedy and loss — for good. He was enough.
Later, when my life resumed a more gentle ebb and flow, I put away those extreme measures and herculean efforts and attempted a more tame, ho-hum approach to my walk with Jesus — much like how I had put away that Magic Eraser I had used only for big household cleaning tasks.
What were those faith-based “extreme measures” and “herculean efforts”? Quality time in His presence. Prayer — spilling my heart out to God and clinging to the words I felt Him say. Reading Scripture, hungry for the truth I would find there. Reflecting on life and Him — through writing, through literally walking with Him. Realizing my reliance on Him and looking at His work in my life that showed me I could trust Him with my future. So — these were not really extreme or herculean exercises, just what I should be using during those everyday spills and messes and, yes, joys in my spiritual life.
Before I began to use the Magic Eraser for the daily spills and messes in life, I would let the stains build through the week and then, maybe, fight them on weekends with caustic cleansers that were harsh to my senses and clothes and counters. Or not. Those were my extreme measures — super harsh cleaning or apathy that resulted in ignoring the stains. The Magic Eraser has transformed not only the way I clean but also my attitude toward cleaning up after others who aren’t quick as neat-freakish as me.
And I’m not sure, but the more I use the magical white sponge the less effect spills seem to have on the counter surface — almost as if the Magic Eraser protects my yellow Formica from staining.
Hmmm…. it’s something to think about.
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB).