The other morning while we were in a frenzy of putting hair in ponytails and putting lunch bags with school bags and finding shoes and reminding Chloe to take a bite again, Blaire broke a necklace. It was made by Daphne with regular sewing thread and a lot of different colored plastic beads. The little beads scattered all over the dining room and no one even really stopped to think about it (including Daphne who laughed at Blaire’s apology). We kept on with our hustle and our bustle. But because man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, Shadrach did not forget. He sought out those beads. He crawled around in them and popped them in his mouth. He belly crawled under chairs and stretched fat fingers out to their limits. I kept hauling him out of the beads and putting him somewhere else – eventually in high chair with a Ritz cracker.
Later in the day, I wondered to myself what Shadrach was doing so quietly and found him, yet again, rollicking in the beads. This time I was actually cleaning the house up and so I swept up the beads and eliminated that problem. I couldn’t help seeing how much this is like all of life with little kids. When there are choking hazards on the floors of our soul, you can trust your children to find them. You can trust them to keep on sitting in them until they actually do choke. Be sure your sins will find you out, and be sure your children will find them out first.
If I lose perspective on my life and start feeling selfish and grumpy, it is like shattering a million beads into the lives of my children. Anger can sprinkle their lives like broken glass on the floor. Discontent and contention with your husband might not feel like a huge threat to you (though it is), but to your children it is like barbed wire. Bitterness. Strife. Envy. Harshness. To you they might feel like an understandable mistake, but to your children it is a great sorrow. Your children cannot escape and ignore these things like you do.
My Dad has always said that the difference between a clean house and a dirty house is not how many things are dropped, but how many things are picked up. When sin shatters on the floor for us – we might just try to ignore it, not walk that way, not look in that closet, not take our shoes off. Ignore the crunch of the glass beneath your feet, or the stickiness as you walk. We might plan to clean it up later when we feel motivated to, and when we have time. But when we have children these things are basically thrown in their face. Their whole world is this. What falls off our branches falls directly into their lives. And this is why your petty sin is not petty to your children. It is fundamental.
This is why cleaning up the little sins is not a picture of being uptight and worrisome, it is simply being faithful to love and nurture your children as you should. Cleaning up discontent is pouring out long- suffering. Cleaning up harshness is pouring out gentleness. Cleaning up selfishness is pouring out kindness. Cleaning up disrespect of your husband is pouring out faithfulness. Cleaning up worry is pouring out peace. Cleaning up snippiness is pouring out patience. Cleaning up the words you said in haste is pouring out self control. Cleaning up the sins of the flesh is pouring out the fruit of the Spirit.
It is so easy for us to act like the Fruits of the Spirit only exist in a sin-free vacuum when often times the fruit of the Spirit are seen in how hostile we are to our own sin. The fruits of the Spirit are not lazy and unchallenged. They do not grow in a hothouse to a fat bubble of shiny sweetness. The fruit of the Spirit are grown in wind and rain and stormy weather.
So take this as an encouragement to be quick to clean.Ask the Lord to show you what you have missed, what you have ignored, what you have been living with so long that you don’t see it anymore. Then, when all that is left is a faint stickiness, a little grit, a haze of dust – use joy like mop water for the soul- gratitude and laughter sloshing all over your life, picking up any little snark, any little envy, or unkindness, and pouring it down the drain.