She slipped in quietly, turning on one lamp near my bedside. She moved about her work without saying much, in a ritualistic sort of way–her arms strong, and face tender. She smiled at me when I opened my eyes, “I’m here to clean you up a bit darlin’.” Words as sweet as the Savannah taffy spun down by the river.
In the dim hospital room, I glanced up at the clock–a bath at 4am? Of course, in hospitals, things happen when they happen, with little regard to what time of day or night. Baths are given according to charts and shifts, rather than convenience.
My body felt like lead as she gently rolled me a bit to remove the under pad I’d been lying on. I could barely move myself, for all of the medicines layered up inside me. What muscles I could move, tensed. I knew how dirty I was. My last shower was two days ago before arriving at the hospital–before giving birth.
My caesarean section was unplanned and difficult. After a long, but unproductive labor, I’d been wheeled into surgery so full of various medicines that I was barely lucid, except for the vomiting.
Sick to my stomach during surgery and afterwards, my abdomen throbbed from both the cutting and the vomiting. An IV with five different lines pumped so much medication into me that I could barely move.
The nurse, without notice, wadded up the pad and replaced it swiftly, making no mention of how desperate I was for her services. She went on to change my “net” underwear, provided by the hospital for the post-birth hours.
I shivered in my embarrassment at how helpless I was, and how dirty I felt. Her discretion and grace humbled me. The gentle and quiet way in which she served me felt comforting as she continued washing gently around my incision. Changing my compression stockings, her hands moving effortlessly through the motions she’s probably rehearsed a thousand times before.
I lay there helpless, awkward, but grateful.
There’s little in my experience more humbling than having to be washed clean by another adult. She bathed me in the dim light before sunrise, right there in my bed, while I lay still, unable to do the needful for myself.
It’s not easy to be served. I still struggle to admit helplessness.
As I endure continued refining and humbling this season, memories of this uncomfortable moment drift in and out of my mind. The relevance is not lost on me.
I want to do it myself, and God reminds me that I simply cannot. Not this kind of cleansing.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:2-3
There’s a cleansing we are incapable of and this is how God does it, He washes us when we can’t do it ourselves. He sends Christ to gather up my bloodied mess, to rinse with His own blood, the stains of my failures. He sends Christ in the dark hours of an aching day, to wipe brows and stitch wounds, to place His hands over the sick and broken and to heal–and raise the dead.
But often, before the healing comes the washing–the refining.
We’re rounding the bend to Advent, a season of waiting and expectancy. In the waiting is where God works.
In the dark, helpless hours of the waiting, we recover, we grow–we are bathed and ministered to in ways we don’t expect–in ways we cannot do for ourselves.
The washing can be hard-humbling.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:7-10
His coming does for us what we cannot.
His cleansing saves–and I am always in need of a washing, always needing salvation. There’s grace in learning to let Him wash us. It’s growth to lay still and accept His mercy–this is where redemption is born.
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