I was helping my packrat daughter clean her room the other day. It was the type of cleaning job that began with a simple “Let’s tidy up” and evolved into a major excavation. Closets were emptied, beds were peered under, and stuff was shoveled here and there. Before we knew it, everything was in piles, and the room that we were trying to clean was looking decidedly worse.
A few trash bags later, the room was swept and mopped, and most of my daughter’s clothes and toys had found a home. She was happy. Her room was transformed. She was free to use her imagination, to play, to be herself, and to grow into who she will become. She had a clean space, but it was only by making the mess worse that we were able to make it better. It was only by taking everything out of her closet that we could see the cracker crumbs on the floor. It was only by pulling everything out from under her dresser that we could see the sticky ring of dried apple juice next to the wall. And it was only by clearing the floor underneath her bed that she found treasured possessions, long thought to be lost.
During Lent this year, I’m helping my family create schedules and chore charts that will keep our priorities in order. Okay, okay...so maybe I’ve had visions of a six week transformation that would end with a sparkling, orderly home and children who cheerfully assist me in keeping it that way.
But I’m realizing that enforcing chores and responsibilities is more about getting messy than getting clean. It’s about letting some laundry pile up so I can teach my son how to prepare a salad for dinner. It’s about praising my daughter for cleaning the bathroom sink, even if she left a few smudges behind. It’s about immersing myself in my children’s temperaments, and being willing to adjust our cleaning and scheduling methods accordingly.
As I teach my children basic household chores, the words “It’s just easier if I do it myself!” never rang truer. But that thought just reveals misguided intentions and a clinging to unrealistic expectations.
Does this thought ever cross Jesus’ mind as He looks at our messy souls? Does He ever have second thoughts about giving us the gift of free will? Does He ever second guess His methods of raising us to be saints?
Of course not.
He doesn’t want our love if it’s forced. And, like a true Lover, He waits for us to wade through our messes. He knows our fallen natures sometimes require pulling everything out from under the bed so we can be thoroughly cleansed and open to grace. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect while on this earth. He knows we are human, we make mistakes, and sometimes a big mess is the only way to reveal our most hidden faults. He doesn’t expect us to be always like Him, but He does expect us to be always with Him--with Him as we strive for virtue, with Him as we instruct our children, and with Him even when life gets chaotic.
So, by the end of Lent, I don’t expect my house to be in perfect order, and I don’t expect that my children will have mastered the concept of “Do your chores the first time I ask, completely and cheerfully.” But, like a true Lover, I will wait as they wade through their messes and be by their side as their faults are revealed. We will navigate the messiness of life together with the hope of eternal order and peace beckoning us forward.
Examine your motivations behind your family’s routines and schedules. Are you allowing room for God’s “messes” in the midst of your own agenda?
Copyright 2015, Charisse Tierney
Image: by Gerd Altmann, CC Public Domain, Pixabay
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.