Yesterday I decided to Spring-clean our bedroom, which included stripping the entire bed and washing the king sized duvet cover. When I pulled it out of the dryer it was a wrinkled mess.
I declared, “I’m going to iron the duvet cover.” My husband looked up concerned and said, “You’re going to iron? Are you sure?”
It’s been a long time since I ironed. Years. I don’t think my kids have ever seen me do it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We send my husband’s shirts to the cleaners and buy wrinkle-free clothes for everyone else.
I pulled down the squeaking legs of my ancient ironing board and blew dust off the bottle of starch. I turned the iron on. I looked for the seams hidden in the yards of fabric. The geometric pattern was all jumbled under the long wrinkles.
Slowly I laid a section over the board and ran my hand over the cool fabric. I felt the heat from the iron. I shook and sprayed the starch.
I quickly fell into the quiet rhythm and repetition of ironing. Pull the fabric, straighten the seam, spray the starch, push the iron back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then pull, straighten, spray, and push again. And again.
Crumpled fabric covered my feet on one side of the ironing board. Smooth fabric with straight lines folded over on the other side.
In the quiet I heard myself say, “Iron me, God.”
“A voice of one calling.
‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
Every mountain and hill made low
The rough ground shall become level
The rugged places a plain.’”
– Isaiah 40:3-4
I’ve been memorizing some of Isaiah 40 for Lent. All of my heart’s longings are addressed in these lines. Build up the low, broken parts, Lord. Tear down the high, stubborn parts. Smooth out the annoying rough patches. Straighten the path so it won’t take so long. Make it easier, God. Fix it. Take all these problems away.
I can pray these verses with no thoughts of transformation. Like sending my car through the car wash. Or ironing a piece of fabric.
I lifted the whole duvet cover off the board and turned it to do the other side. Pull, straighten, spray, push, repeat. My arm got a little tired from all the back and forth, my knuckles were sticky from a starch mishap, and my legs got hot from the pressed fabric hanging near.
On second thought, Lord, forget it. I don’t want to be ironed. This iron is dangerous. It could burn. This fabric is being tugged and forced and re-shaped. Moving all those mountains, hills, valleys and rocks in Isaiah sounds like a major construction project. Too much work. Don’t iron me.
The zen of the moment was lost when I got that hardness of heart. I finished the job and my husband helped me wrestle the cover back on the duvet. We buttoned it up and made sure it was hanging evenly on each side of the bed. I stood looking at it with my hands on my hips.
In the morning I thought about how quickly I went from asking to refusing to be ironed. I want God to smooth out all my wrinkles with his big hand, like a parent’s calming caress. But bare hands didn’t work on my duvet. Its wrinkles had been set the dryer. It was going to take heavy heat to get them out.
“When the heated metal is applied to the wrinkled fabric, the heat weakens the molecule [sic] bonds of the fabric. This allows the wrinkles in the fabrics to adjust. When pressure from the iron is added to the weakened fabric and wrinkles, it presses them out. If you notice your wrinkles aren’t being removed, increase the heat on your iron.” (www.doityourself.com)
This describes what Lent has been like for me this year. Lots of heat, weakening bonds, appeals to adjust, and daily pressure. I’ve been acknowledging and confessing some sins, but not going all the way to repentance. Honestly, I just want the warmth of God’s big hand on me, some unconditional, tender acceptance. Not the hard, heated metal of God’s holy righteousness. But my big wrinkles, my besetting sins, keep popping right back up.
So God increased the heat. He’s pulling, straightening, spraying, and pushing back and forth over my stubbornness. It’s been awful.
I think I’m ready now. I want to change. I want to let God change me. I don’t want to miss out, especially with Easter coming so soon.
Iron me, God.
More thoughts about Ironing:
- There is gentle, clear satisfaction in quotidian tasks. Invite God to talk with you as do them. Doing dishes, washing floors, folding clothes, mowing lawns can all be holy meeting places. You can pray, “Wash me white as snow” or “The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places” or “You make all things new.” God is always eager to speak to your heart and reveal his transforming love for you.
- Does the iron feel too hot? Is the transformation taking too long? Perhaps write this on a post-it or paste it into your phone. Please remember you are not forsaken and your story is not over: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
- Have you slid off the ironing board? Are you avoiding the heat and pressure? Sometimes it’s fun to be an endearing wrinkled mess. No need to intimidate people with crisp, hard lines, right? As Easter approaches consider telling God how you feel. It won’t be a surprise to him, and it might be the start of a new thing in your heart.
- Isaiah 40 has many of the Bible’s greatest hits: the eagle’s wings, the withering grass, the tired mothers, the second chances. If you are looking for a rich place to meditate on God’s intentions and promises, I highly recommend it.