[Today’s guest post is from Aleah Marsden, who brings us a reflection on kids, mess, and the order of the divine Creator.]
Like any parent, I am consistently amazed by my children. I have four, two girls and two boys, aged nine and under. They have each been gifted with an individual set of talents, but if I were to choose one talent which they all possess in increasing measure it would be their ability to make monumental messes.
I’m not talking about your everyday shoes haphazardly kicked off afterschool or breakfast dishes left on the table or even unmade beds. That’s all very entry-level stuff they have long mastered. I’m talking about Gogurt finger-painting on the coffee table, unrolling an entire tube of Christmas wrapping paper (ostensibly to see how long it was), and leaving a concoction of what I could only guess was water, soap, dirt, and food coloring to dry on the bathroom counter. Spectacular sprinkle smatterings scatter the countertops and spontaneously generating goldfish crackers are found in every nook and cranny.
Now, I am not a tidy person by nature. I can highly function in disaster levels of mess; my husband: not so much. He tries. Bless him, the man tries. Even after long hours at work he will pitch into the chaos containment effort, eliciting the kids’ help at least enough to de-clutter the living room so he can enjoy the Niner game from our juice and peanut butter stained couch.
I love, respect, and appreciate his care for our family. But can I be honest and tell you that when he told me a couple weeks ago about an upcoming business trip the first thing I thought was housework vacation!
I wouldn’t say I exactly enjoy mess, but I certainly dread the never-ending chore of cleaning it up more. With the tidy-one away I fully planned to accomplish two of the things of which I am most gifted: reading and procrastinating. I lounged in my cozy secondhand Ethan Allen armchair, feet up on the matching ottoman, Kindle in one hand, iPhone portal to the social media world in the other. I sat upon my domestic throne and ruled with an iron passivity. Sure, you can have a piece of candy. Uh huh, go ahead and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse again. Can someone grab Mommy a Diet Coke?
But it wasn’t all fun and candy and Diet Coke. Toys—toys I didn’t even know we had anymore—covered the living room floor. Dirty clothes creeped from the bathroom and down the hallway. Dishes covered every horizontal surface in the kitchen. The two year old had gotten into the sprinkles again, mouth and and teeth and fingers stained dark blue. A puddle of suspicious liquid marked the tile floor near the base of the trash can. I believe even the dog had decided to join the anarchy.
Three days in and I could no longer ignore the chaos flinging about me like splatter paint. Apparently even I have a limit. Order must be restored.
As I filled the dishwasher to capacity for the second time and gathered up the loose crayons cascading off the table, I was hit with the realization that truly maintaining order and harmony takes a lot of consistency. It requires a commitment to daily, mundane, small work. My rebelling against the tide of chores had only resulted in a tsunami of clutter. I thought of the One who ultimately brings order to chaos. He that never sleeps nor slumbers.
God does not procrastinate. He doesn’t get fed up with the never-ending task of keeping the world running. He is committed to daily doing the little work that produces a foundation for flourishing. Good work so great and yet so humble we can miss it if we aren’t looking for it. The same sovereign God that channels power and advances the story of mankind throughout history has His eye on the sparrow and remembers to splendidly clothe each daisy. There is no task too trite to miss His notice, nor does He weary of our incessant neediness. He even goes beyond order and invests in aesthetic—making all things beautiful in their season. He fixes what has been broken. Finds the lost. All this daily, consistent as the sun He raises with His new mercies every morning.
I consider all this as I chip Cheerios that have welded to the tabletop, my mind spinning while my hands scrape. I serve a God who ordains seasons and prioritizes rest, but who chooses to manifest His love in His unceasing giving. He overflows in His loving, detail-oriented care for His creation.
I am like Him as I sort through a tangle of tiny shoes and socks, pull unidentifiable leftovers from the fridge to toss, and stoop to pick up the myriad of toys from the living room floor, again. I am bringing order to chaos. I am preparing a foundation for flourishing: a space clean and safe and conducive to the hard and humble work of being a good steward of my family.
I grab a scratchy old towel and sop up the dog’s spilled water dish. I soak in Galatians 6:9: Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. As I sweep the crumb covered tile I am reaping the whirlwind I have sown with my hollow seeds of laziness and procrastination—weeds that sprout and multiply swiftly. I perceive the need for good seed: tiny, seemingly insignificant acts dropped into home-soil.
Witnessing His grace-full example, I find the strength I need for living the tedious today. I wipe dirty faces, gather scattered homework papers, rotate laundry, and am somehow made holy. Committed to consistency, to small work done with great love, I am becoming more like Him. Yes, by inches and waves, on the most unremarkable days, I am becoming more like Him.
Aleah Marsden is a stay at home mom of four who wakes up before 5am to study scripture and write because she discovered physical exhaustion is more manageable than emotional exhaustion (i.e. consumes copious amounts of coffee). She shares stories of life, faith, and Bible study at DepthoftheRiches.com. Member of Redbud Writers Guild. Chat with her on Twitter: @marsdenmom