She kneels down.
Down on her knees she goes to the floor. And what she sees and smells, and what she does, all alone here?
This petite woman-child daughter of mine, now 22, this one who colors Disney princess pages in her spare time—she gives thanks for this job. She works for her Lord and she works for all who walk the tiles to the wall where she now kneels.
Their relief is her work.
She cleans the urinals, the kind that stretch clear down with drain in the floor. The dried yellow stench of others greets her nose and eyes and hands as she kneels there. And there, she says, she prays—on her knees. Before the waste, she prays for others—our woman-child—left in a Russian orphanage at 6 months, adopted by us at 6 years. And 16 years later, she still struggles to learn—to process—to navigate through the daily demands of a normal life. She says she wants to find her place—her purpose in this world.
Is this it?
Stooping and wiping others’ trickled waste?
“How would you feel if your child grows up to be a garbage collector?” a relative asked me in the process of our first adoption. He knew the risk of developmental delay due to institutionalization. We knew the high incidence of neurological impairment due to fetal alcohol exposure.
Without much thought, I responded.
“If he or she works as a garbage collector, that’s fine with me. What I want most is for our children to know and love and serve the Lord, however they do it.”
He called me a liar, more or less. How could any parent be content with their child doing some menial, filthy job?
But Jesus knelt and washed dirty feet.
So now I get to reconsider my statement made 16 years ago before I had even seen my daughter’s face for the first time. And picking up others’ garbage seems even better to me than stooping to clean others’ urine stains.
I confess. I have cried.
But she prays as she cleans waste.
Well, I earned a college degree and a doctoral degree. I’ve made lots of money, heard plenty of praise, and received ample applause on actual stages. Bowing before audiences was thrilling. Hearing the praises of people—intoxicating—addicting.
I’m caring for onetime orphans—in a little town—in the country with my husband, supporting them in being all God created them to be.
Sixteen years ago, another extended family member looked me straight in the eye, shook her head, and said this after I announced I had left my career to stay at home with our kids:
“What a waste of your talent and education!”
Waste? Did she say “waste”?
Yes, that word slipped off her tongue and poured into my ears like hell fire.
I was offended then. I’m not now. Now, I understand that the way of Christ is foolishness to those who see through worldly eyes. And anger then has been replaced with compassion now. We are alike, she and I. We both have blind spots and I need compassion too. The One who sees all, knows all. And He spoke these words of compassion, way back then, and He still speaks them now . . .
Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do! (Luke 23:34)
He prayed for us. He paid for us.
Spread out on the grained wood He created, nailed there near-naked, crowds ogling, He asked for mercy . . . for us. And He bought mercy with His blood.
His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)
And His work?
Well, what if His work is to stoop low and get on our knees and clean up others’ sticky, stinking messes and pray for them as we scrub—pleading—interceding—for disinfection—for resurrection of death stricken souls?
And what if we do this holy work from the back of a filth-encrusted garbage truck or on a tile floor of the men’s bathroom with our head hanging over a urine-dripped receptacle while others mock in their minds when they hear what we do? And what if no one ever notices—or thanks—or praises—or claps? What if we NEVER get a standing ovation?
Because the heavens resound with praise for the humble who serve.
The Lord lifts those who stoop the lowest to help the filthiest.
And who is so clean, so dis-infected, that they don’t need a clean-up, a pick-up, a prayer spoken from lips who praise as hands are dirtied?
The reality is—we who seek the praise of men shall forfeit the reward of God (Matthew 6).
The reality is—we who humble ourselves SHALL BE LIFTED UP (James 4:10) to places of dignity and honor and praise.
And because the humble know their Maker best, accolades bestowed will be given back to the One who deserves all glory and honor and power (Revelation 4:10-11).
I may never step onto another stage. I may never hear another word of praise. I may never earn another dime or receive another award. I may leave this life empty-handed, but I will never, ever leave this life empty-hearted. God helps me love three onetime orphans. And they are out there in the world fulfilling God’s purpose for them—His way—in His appointed places.
Some things are revealed only to those willing to assume the lowliest positions.
O heart of mine, kneel wherever you are placed—and let HIM lift you up.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”