I like folding laundry. It’s true; I really do.
Throughout middle school and high school, I did my parent’s laundry along with my own. This occurred because I had to wash my smelly gym clothes every week, but I didn’t have enough clothes to fill up the washing machine. So, I started throwing in their clothes. I didn’t always fold them. It depended on how much time I had or if I felt like it.
At some point during high school, my parents realized that I had been doing most of their laundry for a good while and they decided to start paying me two bucks a load. While I appreciated the gesture, I thought it was too much to pay me for what was essentially me pushing buttons on the washer and dryer. But they insisted. So, I decided to start folding the clothes to make myself feel better about the two dollars.
I didn’t mind folding clothes. The job wasn’t exciting or wonderful for me, but it was a nice break from homework on a Sunday afternoon. But, during my freshman year at college, I discovered that I actually enjoyed the task.
This summer, after returning home from college, I began to ponder why I enjoy folding laundry (especially after I got a weird look from my mother when I mentioned my affinity for the chore). I discovered there were several reasons. I can think about something else while I mindlessly pair socks—whether that be singing a tune, coming up with great story ideas, or panic-planning how to get that essay done. It forces me to take a break from homework. On occasion, it can be a communal family activity. And the warm clothes are nice to hold when it’s cold in January.
But the reason that really struck me was this: I was turning chaos into order. There is something so satisfying about taking a massive heap of clothing and organizing it into nice piles.
And then, I wondered if this had to do with being made in the image of God. During creation, God took a dark, empty, formless earth and ordered it properly. John Milton describes the scene in his epic poem Paradise Lost. As Jesus begins to create the universe, he states:
“’Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace,” Said then the omnific Word, ‘your discord end.’ ... For Chaos heard his voice: him all his train Followed in bright procession to behold Creation and the wonders of his might.’”
Jesus steps into Chaos, commands it to be ordered, and Chaos obeys. Out of that Chaos comes something beautiful and God-glorifying.
If I’m made in the image of God, the God of peace and not disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV), why shouldn’t I desire and appreciate that kind of organization?
What’s amazing is that Jesus continues to transform chaos into order and peace. This is exactly what sanctification is. Haley DiMarco, in her book Devotions for the God Girl, defines sanctification as “the process of making you holy.” It’s a way of reordering one’s life so that it matches Christ. It takes time, and it takes one who is greater than our sinful chaos.
Sanctification isn’t always an easy or comfortable process. I’m not sure my socks enjoy being paired up as much as I enjoy matching them. Perhaps being put on a clothes hanger is not the most comfortable thing. But if I don’t do it, then I have to dig through a drawer to find a matching pink sock and my shirts will be all wrinkly. Jesus’ reordering of our hearts and desires is not fun and simple. It takes a whole lifetime! But it is necessary for us so that we can better reflect his image to a broken, wrinkly world
My laundry epiphany reminds me of the things Tish Harrison Warren discusses in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. In this book, she describes how the mundane, day-to-day parts of our life reflect Christian sacraments, beliefs, and practices. Warren states,
“If I am to spend my whole life being transformed by the good news of Jesus, I must learn how grand, sweeping truths—doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, Christology—rub against the texture of an average day. How I spend this ordinary day in Christ is how I will spend my Christian life.”
The little chores we do each day can be more than just chores—they can be a spiritual practice if we allow them to be.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:23a NIV). May your laundry remind you of this process—one pair of blue jeans at a time.
Featured image by Freepik