To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.
~William Henry Channing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Beauty of Housework

I used to hate housework. It was a drudgery that I put off as long as I good and consequently when real cleaning needed to happen it was a tad bit...overwhelming. Several years ago my thinking on this task began to shift and I began to see the effect it had on my family more and more.
For a while I was in love with all the blogs and articles and books that I could get hold of that would promise to teach me how to organize and declutter and make my own cleaning products. Armed with knowledge that I didn't really get, I'd battle the chores and feel victorious for all of five point two seconds before some little person wandered by and totally decimated my sacred ground of neatness. And heaven forbid that my poor husband didn't take notice of the newly scrubbed tub or the lack of piles of whatever that had finally disappeared.
I would always end up back at square one...hating the time I spent doing something that seemed so unimportant (meaning no fun) and pointless because let's face it, unless everyone stands around stark naked there will always be laundry to do no matter how hard I work on it.
I don't have one magic moment that I can point to as pivotal in my thinking but at some point I suddenly realized how important and vital a calm and peaceful (read orderly and tidy) home was to my husband. It was like he could breathe when he came home to a home that wasn't total chaos. I did have one aha moment though. Remember how I mentioned being upset if Rob didn't notice and heap praise comment whenever I did some serious cleaning? It suddenly dawned on me that I was expecting him to pat me on the back for something that should be a matter of course...I wanted him to notice something that should be so normal as to be un-noticeable. Do I want him to appreciate my hard work? Absolutely. Should I do it so sporadically that he can't help but notice? Nope.
So eventually I got to a place where I enjoyed my chores because of the calmness that it brought to my home and it was a good and tangible way I could show my husband that I loved him. Which is a fine place to be...but it's only a starting point. There is so much more to how we view housework than just the practical working out of it. There is a whole other spiritual component that really blew my mind and completely changed how I viewed that aspect of my life.
When I am cleaning I am bringing order out of chaos...I am putting to rights that which has been disturbed and disrupted. "When God created the heavens and earth, he started with chaos and ended with a finely differentiated and beautiful universe." Christ came to put to rights that which sin had disturbed and disrupted...everyday I am blessed with the task of mirroring His work in my every day activity which makes it anything but ordinary. The fact that I have it to do everyday is a reminder that God is always and constantly at work in our world.
I am also reminded that the Son of God chose to take on the form of a servant and be actively present and involved in the messiness of life...my life as His child is to be rightly oriented as a life of service in very real and practical ways and not just some theologically abstract concept that is never put into practice.
A newer thought for me in this vein is the idea that housework is sacramental in a way. Not that there is any eternal redemption found in sweeping or washing dishes but the sacraments are points where we see God present and active when material and spiritual things come together. It is a time when we are connected to the knowledge of His saving work in the past, our hope for what is ahead and His present faithfulness. Housework is a way of remembering, anticipating and participating in the central promise that God will and has provided a home for His people.
Read Psalm 104 through the lens of seeing God has the great housekeeper...He clothed Himself with light...and the earth with water as clothing...he created homes for all living creatures and established boundaries...He sustains life and creates and recreates through the giving of His Spirit.
There is a beauty to be found in housework when we see it as He sees it...
"May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works..."
May we give Him glory by finding joy in our work. 

3 comments:

Ashley Bryant said...

Marty,
This was so inspirational!!! I have tread the exact same journey as you, and come to the same conclusion! But you put it much more beautifully than I could ever do, and thank you for including Scripture to think about as I tackle my triple housework jobs today (Mondays off from school always seem to leave the house a mess).
God bless you and your lovely family!!!

Cayce said...

Awesome post. I'm still in the journey, myself. Some days I am still feeling the drudgery and hatred... some days I'm loving the fact that God appointed me a task that I am the best equipped for in my family. Thanks for the inspiration today as I have so much to do!

Beckie said...

Amen.