If you have seen much or any of my writing, I think you know that I am no stranger to messes. My children are specialists. I told my husband recently that I think I need a ref’s shirt and a whistle because that seems to be my main job these days. Throwing penalty flags for dress-ups on the stairs. Trying to stop myself from just clearing the table, wiping up the milk, picking up socks, and trying to actually track down the child responsible so that they might learn the rules of play.
But sometimes I think that the emphasis I put on dealing joyfully with mess and mayhem may lead people to believe that I just dig dust bunnies and static-filled sweatpants. And I don’t. But I guess I would rather people erroneously think that of me than have me glue a veneer of togetherness on my very real and gritty lifestyle, and then talk about how everyone should be joyful. I could, in theory, take a picture of a clean, light-filled place in my house and make it seem like we never have finger smudges and random bloody noses. Maybe I could make it look like my three-year-old never shows up in inside-out tights as pants and like I never let that happen for two hours before I find her jeans. If this is what women are looking for, there are whole worlds on Pinterest devoted to this, and they certainly don’t need me to provide it. And since the real message that I care about is joy and faithfulness, I think it would be counterproductive to try to make it look like I always have the perfect circumstances for that kind of joy. Well I don’t, and neither do you.
What I think Christian women need is to find joyful reality. We need to live in that place where the beauty of the Gospel meets the reality of our lives. We’ve been trying to pick the splinters of reality out of our visions of happiness for so long now that we are all confused. We think that joy is present in perfection and through camera filters, but certainly not in midnight encounters with the stomach bug. You know how precious that little duck down curl is at the back of your baby’s neck? That’s real. You know what else is real? The times he runs his sticky wicky hands through that adorable curl and clogs it up with lunch. You know that beautiful Easter dress you sewed and the adorable pictures you took of your daughter sitting with the white fence and the light shining on her just so? That was real. But so was the hole in the knee of her tights and the huge dribble of jelly bean drool down the front of it. You know the miracle of new life – a whole person growing within you – the precious gift? That’s real. And so were the ten thousand times you puked because of it. And in all these beautiful moments and surprising lows, joy is required of you.
Gratitude, laughter, joy, faith, obedience – these are not seasonal things that should make short appearances in a Christian home. These are year-round crops, and your home ought to be the perfect environment for them. But many of us have gotten caught up in the impression that these things are flowers that we want to get so we can put them in a vase on the mantle. The truth is our job as Christian wives and mothers is the job of faithfulness. The job of trusting God and rolling our sleeves up. Our work is in a farm that grows the flowers, not with the woman who waits for a delivery at the door. God gave us soil. He gave us oh-so-much fertilizer. He gives us water and sun and He gives us the seeds. But the work is for us to do. When we are faithful, these flowers surround us, and sometimes this beauty is so fragrant and so rich that it threatens to overwhelm us. And sometimes it is just rows and rows of soil and seeds, and the sky is dark, and the day is long. Our lives aren’t supposed to be either all flowers beautifully arranged or all manure piles waiting to go in. We are to know our way around it all, and be faithful in our work around it all. When we pursue obedience, God will give us the increase.