Hanka and I went by train to the city last week. It was a spur of the moment decision that we came to because I HAD to run an errand in the Old Town, and there had been a huge accident on the road that connects us to Bratislava just an hour before we planned to leave. So to save ourselves from the bad moods that come from waiting in stopped traffic, we found ourselves running to catch the next train. Running for a train is also kind of a mood dampener, and we nearly missed it, but the train conductor actually stopped the train and stuck his head out the window to ask if we wanted to get on. THAT is a mood lifter!
Hanka loves trains, and talking to strangers on trains, so you could say we had a good morning 🙂
We successfully completed my errand within 20 minutes, which was incredible because it involved requesting someone I haven’t met, from an office where no one knows English, to fill out a mysterious form for me.
Then we took some stoic pictures in the less-pretty parts of Bratislava.
(Side note, I deleted the picture files off the sim card before saving them to the computer, so I had to retrieve them and it was really complicated and frustrating, and in the end most of the images were cropped, so that’s the reason for the solid colored blocks on the edge of some of the pictures.)
Then the timing was perfect to have lunch with Erik, and he had loads of time to spend with us, so we even went for coffee after lunch. The barista at McCafe served us lukewarm coffee, but we just laughed about it because we were happy to be together in the middle of a weekday and it was too warm out to drink hot coffee anyway.
And I guess that’s why, since the day was going so well, I decided not to be bothered a bit later (after we left Erik at work) when Hanka succumbed to the irresistible pull of the mud puddle. It took her less than a minute to be sitting down in it, completely covered.
I could hear laughter coming from the direction of the pregnant woman and her friend sitting nearby. A grandfather passed by, tisking as he gently pulled the young girl in his charge away from the temptation. One of the men who empties the bins in the public park said something to us, but all I understood was the word radosť (joy).
I hate to cut Hanka’s play time short, but our train only goes once every hour and I didn’t want to be pressed for time as we still had to change her clothes, walk to the train station, buy a ticket, and navigate the stroller to the correct platform (without the help of an elevator).
What happened next was something like mud wrestling. I don’t know how I had entertained the illusion that I was going to be able to simply pull the child from the mud, change her clothes, and strap her compliant body into the stroller and walk away from the scene with complete dignity. It was nothing like that.
First I pulled out the two plastic bags that happened to be in my purse, and started to make my plan.
Then I managed to take off Hanka’s shirt without getting any mud on myself.
Then I pulled out the wipes and cleaned my hands, which was completely pointless.
When there was no more time to spare, I fortified myself with strong will and determination and pulled Hanka from the puddle. She protested with limp limbs and verbal complaints, but I quickly carried her several meters from the puddle and started ripping off her sandals and trousers. Her diaper was muddy too, but I knew there was no way I would be able to win a diaper change, so I wrestled the spare shorts over her muddy bottom, popped the shirt on over her head, strapped her dirty arms down into the stroller, grabbed the wipe box off the ground, shoved the wet clothes and sandals into the plastic bag, and quickly walked away, purposely not looking back to see how big our audience had grown. Rolling rapidly over the bumpy grass and loud gravel to get out of the park was enough to calm Hanka’s protest and capture her interest in whatever was coming next, and she settled down to enjoy the ride.
It took very little time for me switch from the mud-battle mindset to calculating my hits. I could see the drying mud contrast with my dark wash jeans, and sighed with relief that my newly-bulging belly was somehow spared. My hands weren’t completely covered because the mud from my palms had been transferred to the spare clothes that Hanka was now wearing. But my face – I was sure Hanka had stuck her hand inside my mouth and across my chin during the action; did I still have mud on my face? Hanka was covered head to toe, but the mud dried to practically her natural skin color, so in a few minutes she looked like a “regular” baby, except with long, dirt-caked finger nails and filthy, mismatched clothes. We weren’t passing any reflective windows on our way, so I could only imagine what we looked like.
Then I had this ironic thought: “At least the wipes are still in my hand, so anyone who’s really observing can see that I know we’re dirty and I’m planning to clean up!” It was such a silly thing to think because, really, what good are wet wipes against this much mud? What we really needed was a washing machine and a shower!
And that’s where there’s a tiny (imperfect) analogy, because aren’t we tempted to sometimes do the same thing spiritually? Some of our nasty human nature shows, and we think, “Ok, I know about it now, I’m going to work on it, or at least work on coming up with some clever excuses in case someone else points out this sin to me.” A mixture of “hide it” and “fix-it-myself” is my typical reaction to my own sin revealed. But the good news of the Gospel is that I can’t clean myself up, and God doesn’t even need my help to clean me up. He’s the founder and perfecter of the most enormous cleaning projects, so I can put my wipes away, and have Jesus be my washing machine and shower.