I recently came across a short memoir writing competition with the theme, “Places that have made me, changed me, or inspired me.”
I could write something for that, I thought. I’m by no means a jet-setter, but I do have a passport. I spent my 16th birthday in Russia on a three-week mission trip. During college, I lived in Thessaloniki, Greece for a four-month study abroad program. After my British husband and I got married, we settled in the UK, where we’ve spent the last 10 years. And now, I’m back in my sunny Florida hometown.
These experiences and places have definitely changed me, at least broadened my horizons beyond America.
But the most life-changing, formative places I’ve spent? The places that have broadened my horizon beyond myself?
Well, I’m a mother, so the answer came to me instantly:
The grand tour . . .
Let’s start with the living room. I have two small boys, so while some people’s living room floors are simply where the living room furniture sits, my living room floor is where I die to self. It’s where my kids ask me to play with them, where I sit after I say yes and put my book or phone down. It’s also where I release the dream of a tidy house and accept that my style will be tornado for the next 12 years.
OK, let’s go to the kitchen.
There have been some personal battles won—and lost—on the kitchen floor. It’s where I wipe spilled milk or pick up peas. I’ve even met entire dinners dumped down there because my toddler wasn’t happy about the shape of his pasta.
But as I clean up messes and scrub at sticky spots, I get to choose what to dwell on.
Either I go down the road of resentment—Why are these kids so ungrateful? When do I stop having to clean up their mess?—or I think about my Savior, who once knelt to wash his friends’ feet.
A savior who served and gave of himself.
Moving on to the bathroom floor—yep, I’m going there. Bathroom floors are not a place I want to sit, which is why they’re a great analogy for our human condition without Christ—all our sin, sickness, and pain. Here we stoop to hold sick children, hoping the vomit goes where it should. Here we kneel to clean up messes, often not our own. It’s not glamorous, but if you think about it, these acts of service are a beautiful picture of the gospel.
You can’t get much lower than a bathroom floor, but even there, God met me as I miscarried my first child. He’s always been with me, but at some moments, in some places, you feel his presence more closely.
Next, the bedroom.
A sanctuary, right? A place of sleep and rest and calm?
My bedroom floor has seen me snot-nosed and sobbing into the carpet, exhausted by the job of mom, too overwhelmed to face the next task.
During the kids’ clingy baby stages, I’ve spent hours staring at the pattern on their bedroom rug, waiting for them to fall asleep so I can tiptoe out.
And finally, my closet floor: my hiding place.
There, wedged among the wrapping paper and suitcases and Christmas decorations, I pray. There I say yes, I’ll go back out there. Yes, I’ll give of myself, again. Yes, I’ll do what you’re asking of me.
Motherhood brings me to my knees, and thank God it does. I’m grateful for the breaks and the babysitters and the time away, but those things don’t compel me to pray the way a long afternoon with young children does.
If I’m honest, sometimes I just want the easy road. I don’t want to play restaurant—again. I don’t want to wipe up a gazillion pieces of rice off the linoleum. But I do want to surrender to what God wants to do in my life. I want to allow Him to use me, to portray the beauty of the gospel in my smallest acts of service. I want to let these hard moments chip away at my sinful self, causing me to look more and more like Him.
I’m not alone.
The thing is, Jesus was acquainted with floors, too.
Not just the one where He washed his friends’ feet; I’m picturing Him kneeling in a garden. There, anguished, He spread himself out on the ground and surrendered to His Father’s call.
Turns out, you don’t need a passport to follow Christ. To serve as He served, to love as He loved. And as you follow him down, down, down to the dumped peas, to the vomit, to where the tears and whispered pleas for help seep into the carpet, you’ll find He’s already there.
And He’ll meet you there.