It was the middle of the night and I was ironing every shirt in our closet. Waking up anxious with the concerns of young kids, my medical practice, and a business-traveling husband, ironing was a sort of therapy. Strangely, ironing all night made me feel better. It soothed my anxiety and magnified my pride when I could report my supreme “helpfulness” in the morning. But this wasn’t about serving my family, it was about self-preservation.
The motor driving me was veering off course. But, years later, I recognize a redemptive side to my frenetic ironing. It just needs a realignment.
Now that I know myself, my personality, and my sin nature a little bit better, this all-night-ironing memory reminds me of the ways I am tempted to self-sufficiency. It’s easy to gravitate toward self-preservation. Coping mechanisms. We all have them. Without the saving knowledge of Christ, they are all we have to make our way in this world.
And for many of us, our self-preservation strategies serve us well. I was very efficient and productive in my ironing. I was lauded by my husband when I proudly reported my accomplishment. And my anxiety diminished. In that moment, I thought I had saved myself.
Now that I know I am saved in an ultimate way through Christ, I don’t need these coping mechanisms to save me. Because I am preserved in him, I don’t need self-preservation methods. But that doesn’t mean I give up ironing.
I’ve discovered that an antidote to the pride that characterizes my personality is to serve in ways that are not lauded, but hidden and unassuming. Serving my family in solitude is the kind of worship that will draw me into more health. There is redemption of frenetic ironing when it is transformed into quiet, inconspicuous ironing.
God transforms what was a self-preservation mechanism into a spiritual practice. When the misdirection is corrected, ironing becomes worship.
So, when my son comes home from school with a basket of dirty clothes, I’m not driven by anxiety to head straight to the laundry room. Frenetic productivity isn’t contrived to make me feel better. Instead, I enjoy the quiet of my laundry room, folding clothes, dwelling in solitude, serving my family without recognition. Maybe even ironing. And in it all, I am worshiping my God.
What habit of yours could, with a little realignment, be transformed into a spiritual practice?