Most of my childhood was spent in the states, specifically New Jersey, but I was born and raised in a village in Nigeria. Though most of the memories are faint, I have distinct memories of people “fetching water”, or plainly, going to the stream every morning to collect water in a basin and carrying it back skillfully on their heads. This water would be utilized for all of the household needs: cooking, cleaning, bathing, and washing.
I have a vivid memory of my grandmother “washing” the household clothes one day. I put the term washing in quotation marks because, if you saw what I saw, washing would be an understatement. With the rhythmical pounding and beating and throwing of the clothes over the clothesline, you would think that my grandmother was involved in a physical altercation with the washed clothes and was determined to prove her superiority. It wasn’t until I came across this verse and dug deeper into the Hebrew meaning, that I began to understand what my grandmother was doing:
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7
In this context, the term “wash” isn’t the same as if you were to wash your hands with antibacterial soap; rather, it is synonymous to the pounding, beating, and throwing of the clothes when my grandmother was involved. Please hear my heart, as I am not suggesting pounding and beating as the way God wants to approach us, but I will say this: there was a more intentional and more purposed approach taken to was the clothes, with a surety of a deeper, more thorough, and longer lasting cleansing.
I would humbly submit to you that the psalmist had the aforementioned in mind when he penned this verse. He wasn’t interested in being damp on the surface from a superficial sprinkling of water; he wanted God to thoroughly wash him of everything and anything that was contrary to the Father. Imagine the level of humility and vulnerability that is required for such a stance of the heart: the places of ignorance we shelter from the public, the thoughts we hide from social media posts, the struggles we mask in front of our loved ones, and the never-ending hallways of justifications we have up our sleeves for our prideful and arrogant natures.
The spiritual challenge, and accompanying prayer, today is quite simple: allow the Lord to wash you completely, thoroughly and above all, lovingly. Because He does love you. Yes, it is a vulnerable prayer. Yes, it is a pride-sacrificing prayer. Yes, it is a humbling prayer. But I am confident to say this: the joy, freedom, and clean slate that you will experience is worth it.