"Pick the drain of any hair," Leah said to me the first day of shower cleaning training at Lifetime Fitness. "Then, spray with water and wash away more hair. After that, spray with cleaner and scrub with a brush. Rinse. That's it."
She looked at me with a look that asked, "You got it? It's not rocket science."
I had it. Easy peasy.
At first, I saw the showers as a chore, which is my whole job I suppose as a cleaning lady. Scrubbing and spraying, spraying and scrubbing some more. But after a few weeks, I found it quite pleasing to work in the quiet and warm stalls. It was a place to think, a place to be alone, well almost alone. Typically one or two patrons of the gym would shower while I cleaned the open stalls.
In January, I found myself praying quietly each time I cleaned the showers. "God, please be with me. I know you're here." I'd bring my cares and concerns to him each time and he made it obvious that he was hearing me. Sometimes I'd pray with such intensity that I tear up and take a time out in the stalls so that patrons don't have to see the weepy-eyed shower cleaning lady. This hasn't really changed.
However, a few weeks ago, I decided I'd sing songs to God while I cleaned. I figured if someone was uncomfortable with me singing in the showers, the only place my voice is appropriate, then they would say something.
One particular night, I was singing bits of worship songs that I could remember. Typically transitioning quickly from one song to the next because I can only remember a verse or two of most songs sung at church. I began to feel this deep sense of loneliness, which was something I didn't really feel anymore on a daily basis whether I had been solitary for moments or hours. So I prayed, "God, you've been with me all day. Maybe it's me. Maybe my gaze is off of you. I don't want that. So please reveal to me that you are here with me."
(I have begun to realize that God is not far from us. We put walls between ourselves and him on our own. It's up to us to say, "I don't want to be far from you. I want to be close," and he comes.)
I felt in my heart God was saying, "Sing 'It is Well.'"
One of the only hymns that I can remember at least a few verses of is "It is Well."
If you're unfamiliar, it goes like this.
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul."
So I sang the first verse and the verse about Jesus taking our sin, thinking all the while, "Is anyone else praising you, O God? I feel so alone on this road with you." I continued singing, but my voice began to falter. I was getting too choked up. I stopped after finishing the first verse once more. I listened in the silence. But a moment later a woman in the first stall picked up right where I left off singing, "It is well, with my soul. It is well, with my soul."
I began to cry.
God knew I needed that. He knew I needed someone else to confirm that I'm not alone in praising him while I'm at a health club.
Sometimes it's going to feel like you're alone as you press in closer to God; its how many of the saints and Jesus felt. I've been feeling this way lately, like I can't relate, so I stay quiet and listen to those around me, which is good and better. But I feel strange because I'm not concerned about little things I used to care about.
While I was reading yesterday, I felt great encouragement from a passage in one of the books. As AW Tozer wrote in an article in the Alliance Witness, compiled in the book Man: the Dwelling Place of God,
"...the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he a holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his grief to God alone...[though he] is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the brokenhearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world, he is all the more able to help it."
This is right where I'm at, disconnecting myself from this world and finding solace in it, while joyfully hoisting other's burdens over my shoulder to take it to the foot of the cross where they can feel peace.
So if you feel this way, or want to feel a joyful estrangement, I encourage you to seek the Lord. Just do it. The more you seek, the more you find. The more alone and different you become, the closer you will be to the creator, and that's the best place to be to be used.