I heard this story about a new wife who watches out her window at her neighbor hanging out her laundry week after week.
The new wife is always commenting about how the neighbor's clothes aren't really clean. She wonders what the neighbor is doing wrong.
But then one Saturday, the wife looks out again, and the laundry appears to be clean for the first time. She asks her husband what he thinks the neighbor has done right this time.
The husband tells his wife that he got up early and cleaned the windows.
And so it is that we are told to change our own perspective first before we criticize others.
"Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye," reads Matthew 7:5 in the New Living Translation of the Bible.
I decided to do some window washing in my own house. I found it very difficult to get all the streaks off my windows, and I started to think about all the jokes where people say they don't do windows.
Window cleaning is hard, I was reminded after I had all the windows taken down and cleaned once over.
I had gotten past the dirt. My difficulties came when I was working on getting all the streaks out, so I could see clearly to the outside.
Time and time again, I would go after a streak just to be convinced that it was really on the other side of the window.
How many times had I thought a problem in a relationship was caused by the other person, just to later see how everything changed when I was the one who approached something differently?
I noticed that the streaks went away only when I gave 100 percent on each side of the glass.
Philippians 2:3-4 reads: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
What if both people in a relationship took care to remove any and all deficiencies created by themselves? What if they worked so hard at creating a clear view for the other person through their side of the glass that they had no time to notice any deficiencies coming from the other side?
I was thinking how the world would seem like such a brighter and cleaner place if that were always the situation between people.
I thought of how God always keeps His side of the glass clear.
It is often said that when the storms of life come, it is we who put up the shield that keeps us from seeing God's hand in our lives.
Often those who seek to lead us in the right direction tell us to not to quit praying when we don't feel like it. They tell us that God is always there, even when we don't feel like He is.
"Be strong and courageous," reads Deuteronomy 31:6 in the English Standard Version of the Bible. "Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
Romans 8:38-39 in the English Standard Version of the Bible reads: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Finally, I was caught up in the memory of a powerful moment of friendship I experienced once while my friend helped me clean those same windows.
We scrubbed and we moved those windows around, all the while discussing problems from our past that we had worked to overcome.
And suddenly, my friend turned to me and told me about a particular moment in her childhood that she had kept in the painful, dark recesses of her mind for decades.
She said she had told no one, and now that the memory was out in the light, she felt so much better.
It seemed clear to both of us that we were cleaning much more than windows that day.
We hugged and cried for a moment as that smudge from her past became much more clear, and she could let the light into that part of her soul for the first time.
"'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD," states Isaiah 1:18 in the New American Standard Bible. "'Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.'"
Now, what happened to my friend was definitely not her fault.
But what had kept that moment dark in her mind was her inability until that moment to let go.
And as she was able to forgive and dismiss the hurt, we both looked out through much clearer views, and we were grateful that God chose to reward us for cleaning the windows.