As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beautiful Mess

It is a great paradox in my life that while I have never cleaned more often in my life, my house has never looked messier.  If you had walked into my home ten years ago, you might look around and say that it was well-kept and clean, when in all actuality the floors had probably not been vacuumed in a week and a mop was something that collected dust in my closet, the toilets were probably deceivingly white despite the many weeks without a good scrubbing, and the pile of dirty dishes was just tucked neatly beneath a cutting board in the sink, keeping them out of sight, out of mind.  Today if you walk in, you will likely leave your shoes on because the floor is sticky despite yesterday's vacuum and mopping, the tower of dishes that looms in the sink is likely too large to be hidden beneath anything (and is in fact, just today's dishes, which will be washed in the afternoon as yesterday's were), the bathroom will smell of urine from a little boy who can't get his aim right, and despite the fact that the toilets are sprayed and wiped down nearly every day.  I have never cleaned more in my life, and my house has never looked as messy.  Appearances can be deceiving.

I often laugh at my pre-babies self even daring to think, "sigh, I know it's been a while since I vacuumed the floor but I just don't feel like it today."  That's not even an option now!  And while my house begs to differ, I feel good about the fact that today, I am a much more diligent cleaner than I was back then.  Because the fact is that in those days, there was a lot of stuff I should have been doing that I didn't, because I didn't have to.  Now though, life is such that it just requires more consistent work.  I could pat myself on the back for vacuuming every day but you know what?  It's not heroic virtue that causes me to do it - it's necessity.  Nobody's going to give me a prize for keeping a clean house, it's what families do.  It would be like someone standing at the door of the Mill where my husband works and handing out a prize for him showing up to work every day.  If it was a virtue I would have done it then, but I didn't.  The fact is I need this life, because it calls me to the greatness I would let pass me by if I didn't need to do it.  It pushes me outside of myself to do the things I'd really rather not do, because there just isn't an option (well there is, if you like crawling through dirt every day!)

As I was tidying my middle kids' room the other day for the umpteenth time however, it started to get to me.  I had just been in there an hour earlier to straighten everything up, and we were leaving momentarily.  I wanted that room clean, but at 4 and 5 these two little ones have a very different definition of what clean means than I do.  And as I picked up that clutter yet again, I thought about how my house has never been so clean, because I have never cleaned it so much.  This mess that I am constantly picking up is brought about by the life contained within these walls.  This constant call to work, which makes me a better worker and forces me to take care of the things that I have is a direct result of all of us living here together. Life is an incredibly blessed and great thing - many good things happen within these walls.  Things that cause messes to be more apparent, so that they need to be dealt with.

It occurred to me that this same paradox is present within me.  The more aware I become of the sin inside me, the harder I try to work to get rid of that sin, the more everything is stirred up.  It's difficult not to get lost in our sin, our desire to be good and holy and yes, even perfect, when all we see is these same messes that we just keep cleaning over and over again.  But I think that the life inside of us does this too, and I don't think that's a bad thing.  Because just as ten years ago the same mess was still present, I didn't realize it.  I neglected it.  And even though things looked cleaner, there really was lurking a multitude of things that needed to be taken care of.  God's life in us stirs this up, and the more we fill ourselves with His life the more we just have to clean up the things that don't belong.  It can be very messy, and very discouraging.  But it's a good thing.  Because when these things are brought into the light, we  have no choice but to clean it up.  It's not heroic virtue, it's necessity.

Appearances can be deceiving, but one thing I know for certain is that my path to holiness does not begin with doing nothing.


  1. Oh, I love this: "Appearances can be deceiving, but one thing I know for certain is that my path to holiness does not begin with doing nothing." What a beautiful family!

  2. Such wisdom in this post! Thanks for sharing--and now I feel an urge to get off my tush and do something towards my path to holiness.

  3. I often tell my husband, "you have no idea how hard I worked to get this place looking so mediocre." Six people, not a ton of space. Just life.