GENTLE CYCLE

There are moments that define the “I have arrived” stages of life. One of them is when you start buying your own clothes. It’s the introduction of your “style”; purchased with pride and, for many, a side dish of rebellion. You gaze into the full length mirror that hangs by thick adhesive on the inside of your closet door. You see a thought bubble as you fasten that top button,  “Dear Mom, I’m wearing this because I want to, not because you’re making me.” Smirk, wink, twirl…

My defining moment happened to land in my closet in the early 80’s. Woooo doggie, I was rocking those blue jean mini skirts with crop tops and scandalous double v necked sweaters. My eyes still hurt when I flash back to the flashdance fashions of neon t shirts and, God forgive me… leg warmers.

I probably didn’t learn a whole lot while sleeping through classes in college, but I learned a thing or two at the laundromat. The hard way. There was nothing more disheartening than pushing a nickel into that big Speed Queen dryer for an added ten minutes and then pulling out a load of ink stained crew socks and tank tops. You can only sleep through a mistakenly scheduled anthropology class so many times before you leave an inkpen in your pocket. The shrunken sweaters, the clothes that went in white and came out pink, the bleach stains…I gave up. I got a Cato credit card and avoided laundry by purchasing new clothes until I hit my $75.00 credit limit. I eventually got the hang of clothing care: sort, use the temperature settings, check the pockets. Having a wardrobe was hard work. Velour track suits were worth it.

I graduated from college and from my $75.00 credit line at Cato… and I invested in something that really made a statement. Shoulder pads. The more chiseled the shoulder pad, the more punch your power suit packed. A good woman-of-steel shoulder pad sewn into a silk-lined, thigh-length blazer was so dominating that it required the support of sub shoulder pads. Those topped the scooped neckline of a silk, satin, and possibly plastic blended blouse called a shell. We had one in every color. The shell created the perfect illusion of a tiny waist when tucked into pleated pants or skirts. Finish it out with coordinated twist beads and get ready to own the envy of every working girl goddess who wasn’t wearing the exact same outfit… with a different combination of twist beads. 

Shoulder pads couldn’t simply be tossed into a washer and dryer. They had the most prestigious of laundry labels… “dry clean only”. Instead of hauling baskets and bags into the steamy laundromat, I swung by the dry cleaners to retrieve my perfectly pressed outfits. The laundromat change jar now held a collection of safety pins that attached my claim ticket to my clothing. Anything that didn’t go to the cleaners was hand washed with a capful of Woolite. Classiest non-detergent contribution to textiles since Borax. Woolite just smelled sophisticated.  

When my kids were wearing onesies and diapers, I defaulted to wash and wear. It’s the fridge to microwave to dishwasher Pyrex of women’s apparel. I would Spray and Wash my wash and wear, toss it in the washer and dryer, and get back to getting puked on. There isn’t a mom on the planet who hasn’t done some time in the polyester purgatory of wash and wear. The best thing I got from it was the absence of the iron. I think part of the strategy of marketing wash and wear had to be the bonus of not waking the baby with the metal on metal screech that came from setting up the ironing board. 

Now that the kids have grown, well, so have I. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to shapewear.  Regardless of what the ads and labels lead an older, plumper version of the girl in the 1980’s yearbook to believe, it does not give me a shape. It simply sausages the shape I already have into something with less than the appearance of a bump n jump. And so I’ve returned to the gentle cycle. Because if my undergarments are shapewear, then I certainly don’t want my outer garments losing their shape. For the love of Lycra, keep that stuff covered. 

So today, I looked up at my tops and slacks and sweaters that I just pulled out of my now agitator free windowed washing machine. The seams are lined along the edges of the hangers so there are no puckers in the sleeves. The wrinkles that managed to develop in a slow spin cycle are smoothed out. My sad attempt to hold on to a fashionable wardrobe is evenly spaced along the shower curtain rod “line drying” and retaining it’s plus size length and width. I have arrived.

Does anyone ever ask you, “how’s your soul?” 

How is your soul? Is it shrunken and stained? Pressed and prepared and powerful? Is it cycling through a never ending rotation that receives very little care? Is it holding its shape?

Our souls are not static. They need care and they need to function as a vessel of God’s love and Holiness. They may be heavily soiled. They may be delicately knitted. At different stages in our life and our faith, the care instructions may change. Read the instructions. God’s Word addresses every level of care our soul requires.

I’m thankful for the tags on my clothes that tell me how to care for a fabric. I’m thankful for God’s word that tells me how to care for my soul. I would like to give you a nickle for a little more time on the dryer. I’d like to give you a safety pin from the dry cleaners. I’d like to give you the low maintenance of wash and wear. I’d like to give you space to hang your gently washed garments to dry without losing their shape. How’s your soul? I’d like to give you some care instructions: You don’t need Spray and Wash or Woolite, you need faith.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39

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