I was on my hands and knees scrubbing her floor. I had just finished washing dishes that had been piled up for days. The placed reeked as a I moved dishes around so I could clean the sink in order to get the job done. “This isn’t what they taught in grad school,” I thought. And then I thought, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”
I was a home-based therapist for families in foster care, and the young mom I worked with twice a week was overwhelmed emotionally, physically, and mentally. Yet, she was making strides. Even though I was there to process her abusive childhood and help her develop positive changes in her present behavior, the mother in me was reminded of my own feelings of being overwhelmed as a young parent. I had a support system of family and church friends who came alongside and helped when days were rough or dishes were piled up and floors needed to be mopped. She had none. She basically raised herself as a child and knew nothing but chaos and unhealthy, toxic relationships. Her apartment was a mess and she didn’t know where to start to get it cleaned up before the social workers came for the next visit.
I remembered my mother-in-law who often showed up unannounced to help wash my dishes or run the sweeper when my children were small. It didn’t take her a lot of time, but the help and silent support was like water being poured over a parched soul.
“Let’s get these dishes washed,” I said to my client. “It won’t take long. We can talk while we work.”
And we did. Over the months I worked with her, I helped this mother in practical ways as we did therapy while folding clothes, sorting toys, and running the sweeper. Though I didn’t openly share my faith in Jesus Christ, there were opportunities to discuss faith in conversations while we did life together in her messy apartment. While I gave her useful skills alongside psychotherapy, I received more from the experience than I think I gave. God taught me lessons about humanity, faith, and community.
I learned God is present in the simplest and most humble places, like scrubbing the floors of someone with addiction. I learned that people hunger for honest, pure, and good relationships with others. I learned people are open to the gospel of Christ when they feel heard, validated, and respected.
I learned it’s a challenge to gain the trust of others, but once it’s earned, there is loyalty and respect. I’ve learned people intently watch those of us claiming the Christian faith, wanting to know if what they see is real. I’ve learned it’s a high calling to call myself a Christian because I want to represent Christ well to those who don’t know him.
Working with people of diverse, ethnic, faith, and socioeconomic communities has challenged my faith, causing me to seek God for answers to questions that aren’t so simple. I’ve learned to pray more intently, knowing only God can move in the lives of the helpless or those bound by addiction or abuse. I’ve been humbled by God’s presence in places I wouldn’t have expected. I’ve been honored to share joys and heartaches in moments where God is undeniably present, from a messy apartment to an intimidating courtroom. God has shown in up powerful ways.
For me, community has become more than just a geographical location or familiar place of faith. It’s become a place where two humans find common ground and share life together, even when it’s messy. Community and faith can be found in the strangest places. Even on a dirty kitchen floor.
This article was first printed in Purpose Magazine, August 2013, published by Menno Media. This publication is currently out of print.