If I had to pick between making my children clean their room and chasing a family of squirrels into the bathtub, I think I’d pick the squirrels. Less hassle, really.
“Momma, she made it all messy! I don’t like it all messy!” My six-year-old faced me in the hallway, and her lips began to quiver.
“What do you mean, your sister made it messy? Your room was already messy; that’s why I told you to clean it.”
“No!!” She burst into tears. “She took all my stuffed animals off my bed and put them on the floor, and I don’t like it! I can’t even walk in there now! Why did she make it all messy??”
I peeked into the room my girls have shared for years and saw my nine-year-old pulling stuffed snakes off a heap in the middle of the floor then gently laying them one by one across her little sister’s freshly made bed, in a rainbow of plush snake colors. “Look, Momma!” Big sister turned toward me and smiled. “I’m organizing all of her stuffed animals for her.”
“That’s wonderful, lovey. Thank you.”
What to some looks like a mess is to others just a “before” picture. If only my six-year-old could understand that.
If only we all could understand that.
Sometimes in order to clean up a space, it needs to get messier first.
I have a sweet friend who scrubs homes for extra income. She blesses me with her mop and bright company every other Wednesday, often chirping, “Don’t look until I’m done! I have to make a mess before I can make it clean!” And she sets to work shuffling toasters and side tables and dining room chairs until the entire house is discombobulated. Only then can she dust and vacuum and disinfect in neglected corners and sticky surfaces that have been hidden by so much clutter. In the end she rearranges everything neater and tidier than it was before. It’s a beautiful transformation.
Doesn’t God do that to us? He’s in the business of house cleaning, too. He takes hearts and hopes and relationships and hardships and disassembles everything in order to scrub it from the inside out.
This happened to me the day I brought my firstborn home from the hospital and discovered there would be no more sleeping for a year. My life as I’d known it got all torn apart until I didn’t even recognize the haggard lady in the mirror. But God used motherhood to clean out my selfishness and bring me face to face with my fears, so that he could build me back up, stronger and far greater blessed that I’d been before.
He did it again when my health took a nose dive and I underwent test after test until doctors blamed all my wacky symptoms on stress. So I was forced to overhaul my thinking patterns, my diet (farewell, beloved sugar!), and my delusions of self-control. Out of that wreckage God fashioned a better version of me, someone who could speak more authentically to women in the trenches of family life.
He’s doing it again, now, this week, when my husband leaves his long-time job on Friday and ventures into self-employed territory. We don’t know when the next paycheck is coming in. We have no idea what life will look like in a few months or if we’ll be digging up our entire back yard to sustain ourselves with an Amish vegetable garden. Are we crazy? Maybe. But then we have a crazy-love kind of God. The kind that will send himself to earth, to live a dirty human existence, to make himself an unparalleled “mess” on the cross in order to complete the most perfect, spotless, glorious transformation known to all creation.
If the picture we have of Jesus is only the bleeding, tear-stained convict, then His story looks bleak indeed.
But we know what happens next. We know how it ends.
What if we looked at today that way? This moment, this heartache, this unknown you’re standing in right now. What if you acknowledged that it’s only the “before” picture, or better yet, just an in-progress snapshot of an amazing happy ending?
Because it is.
When my six-year-old saw that her sister had arranged all of her stuffed animals, she forgot about her messy floor tantrum. She climbed onto her bed, giggling and filled with gratitude for the cushy snake commune that my older daughter had created for her enjoyment—and that’s great.
I want to find that same appreciation in the mess. I want to embrace the middle of the story, knowing that it’s all a necessary part of moving the plot forward, toward some beautiful, worth-every-heartache redemption.
Toward God Himself.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Can you do that with me?
I’ll huddle around my pile of mess on the floor, you’ll huddle around yours, and together we’ll praise God for sweeping and scrubbing and decluttering within. He is the very best housekeeper.
Let’s give him the keys.