What Scrubbing Bathrooms for a Month Taught Me About God

{By Ellery Sadler}

No one told me loving Jesus would mean cleaning bathrooms.

This summer I spent a month at a Young Life camp in Virginia. It was one of the best – and hardest – months of my life. Dropped off in a group of about fifty people from across the country, and I didn’t know a single soul. Within a week though, this group of strangers became a team of best friends.

what cleaning bathrooms taught me about God

Pictured Above: The Best People in the World

I signed up to help at the crafts (I mean, how hard can making bracelets for a month be, right?) but ended up doing a lot of other things as well. (And made so many bracelets my hands got blisters.) One of our jobs was, every morning, to go from cabin to cabin cleaning the campers’ bathrooms. It was hard work and, with no air conditioning in August, hot. But it taught me more about loving Jesus and what it really means to be a Christian than I ever thought it would.

1. Loving Jesus Is Messy

Sometimes, in the grand old US of A it’s easy for Christianity to be so sterile, so convenient. If you can’t make it to church, or don’t feel like it, just click a button and you can listen to the podcast. If you don’t like the Bible study you’re doing, just browse Amazon and a new one will be at your doorstep in two days or less. But loving Jesus is messy. It isn’t always convenient. It sometimes requires getting up at five o’clock in the morning. It sometimes means saying no to good things in order to say yes to the best things. It sometimes means scrubbing throw-up of bathroom walls (like a couple summer staffers had to do).

2.  You Serve Jesus First With Your Attitude

I can’t say I was thrilled with the whole bathroom cleaning job. To be honest, I basically hated it for the first week. When we were heading out to our different cabins, I found myself thinking ‘I hate cleaning. I can’t believe I’m doing this for free. I can’t believe they get fifty people to sign up for this!’ It was so easy to commiserate, to complain, to mumble about all the other more fun things people do in the summer. I kept thinking to myself ‘Seriously, I gave up going to the beach so I could clean bathrooms?’

Yeah, you did. Because I gave up My life, so that you could.

My love for you led Me to a cross, and your love for Me lead you here. 

Wow. Attitude readjustment. I made a commitment that night that the next day I would not complain. Not a single complaining word or sigh would come out of my mouth. It would be a test, to see how much my words really impacted how I felt. And so I didn’t complain the next day. And it was one of the best days of camp. Not because the bathrooms were any easier or it was any cooler outside or the hours were any shorter, but because in my mind all I could see was Jesus. Jesus dying, so that I could live.

How could I possibly complain about cleaning bathrooms, if it meant that every week, five hundred kids, would get to hear about Him?

3. Being a Christian Isn’t Glamorous

I think sometimes we believe in a glam-gospel.

I don’t know where the idea of a glam-gospel came from, but it isn’t biblically sound. Glamping might be fun, but Christians are called to rough it. Life includes a lot of mosquitos and mud and cuts and bruises. Being the next Mother Teresa might sound great, but in actuality her life wasn’t all that thrilling. She washed dirty feet. She took care of the sick, the dying, the unwanted. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t glamorous.

I so often have this vision that serving Jesus is going to be something big and grand. Something that goes down in the heavenly history books with a gold star next to my name. But scrubbing bathrooms made me change my mind. I think the proverbial gold stars often go to people no one has ever heard of. Being a Christian means being faithful to love people like Jesus does. Loving them when they don’t notice. Loving them even if you never meet them. Wiping mirrors and cleaning showers again and again and again.

4. God’s Love Is Big Enough for the Little Things

Sometimes I wonder if my prayers annoy God because they are for such little things. Sometimes I feel like my serving Him isn’t good enough. I didn’t save the world, I just made a bracelet with a braces-wearing middle schooler.

But to God, that middle schooler is the world. 

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize, but God loves details. He loves little things – like rain drops and loaves of bread and children and tiny, random acts of service done in His name. No smile is too small. No job is too unimportant. No word of kindness is too simple. God’s love is big enough to create an entire universe, to create billions of people. But it’s also big enough to care about the little things.


  1. Beautiful Elle. Just like you :) I had a major shift in attitude a couple of years ago when I heard someone somewhere say that as Christians we’re often told that we should do our serving as if we are serving Christ but instead we should perform our daily tasks as if we WERE Jesus. Takes folding laundry, washing dishes, weeding the garden and yes, scrubbing toilets to a whole new level for me.

  2. Ellery, I loved this. Especially “You serve Jesus with your attitude” and “sometime we believe in a glam-gospel.” Such thought provoking and truth saturated statements!

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