“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (Proverbs 14:4, NIV)
Some of you married farmers. Most of us did not. Still, the imagery here is full of application for every mother in every messy home: You want a fruitful family? Then you’re going to have a messy house! You want your little people and their friends and neighborhood kids all dropping by? You want to host home group with your church friends? You want children who have the freedom to finger paint at an easel and play in backyard dirt? Then you’re going to have to deal with muddy shoes, sticky fingerprints, and careless spills.
You can wrap your mind around that concept, can’t you? And yet, the reality feels overwhelming in your day-in and day-out lives as dishes and laundry pile up. Your husband is working out of town again this week, so the load falls squarely on your shoulders. You set a plan in place, how you’re going to get it done after you tuck your children in bed for the night. All eleven loads of laundry are piled in a wrinkled mound upon your bed, and you have vowed to get every last piece of it folded and put away before you hit the sack! Except the youngest keeps coming out crying about “scary thoughts,” and the oldest has leg cramps, and your husband texts, asking you to send him the phone number he scribbled on a scrap of paper three weeks ago that he’s sure is on the back, right-hand corner of his desk. So you snap!
Messy homes are many women’s triggers. And the problem is that as soon as we soothe our twitchy tendency by getting the place cleaned up, it’s shot to pieces all over again—along with our nerves!
Here’s how it looks in our family: Our weekly routine is that the children all lend a hand and get their bedrooms and the family room picked up on Sunday nights, so that we’re ready for a new week. Then it’s off to bed and out the door in a hurry come morning. Needless to say, Monday is my happy, peaceful day. Except, within 18 seconds of getting home from school that afternoon, every Lego set we own, and every superhero ever made, carpets the floor once again. And...they’re hungry! How DARE they be hungry when my stainless steal sink is so shiny and sparkly, without even a water spot? But in they come, like a herd of elephants, ripping through the pantry and grabbing granola bars, tearing off wrappers, sending pieces of their crumbly snack flying across the ground. And as I holler, “Grab a plate and eat that at the table...” another child pulls a juice box from the fridge, punches a hole in it with their straw, sending a sticky stream of kiwi-strawberry down the front of my cabinets...and I come undone. Again.
This is one of those triggers that I feel great shame over, because it’s so predictable. I ought to have figured this out...conquered it by now. The confusing problem is, this isn’t really about my house at all... my need for order in the home goes much deeper than a woman’s affection for a freshly swept floor and Windexed windows. What I’m learning about my need for a clean home is that uncluttered countertops are a tangible way to rank the control I have over my life. When I can’t control my husband’s work schedule, my children’s volume, their behavior at dinner or in their beds at night...I want to have just one aspect of my life in order. Just one. That’s all I ask!
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“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:10)
Women, the application is simple. Hard, but simple. God is holding your every day in the expansive palm His hand. We are held in that hollow place beside every other thing under His sovereign control. The weight of eternity, the wars that rage around the globe, and our loved ones battling cancer. God is holding your life today, your family home today, your anxious heart today. We can surrender big tears and big angst when we believe that a big God is in control.
He is the one who has ordered your footsteps, His is the light that illuminates your path, His breath fills your being, and His Holy Spirit invites you to “be still and know” that He alone is God...even in the chaos.
Would your house be cleaner without your darling little mess makers? Would the wood floors stay shiny longer than the span of time it takes for them to dry? Would you only need to run the dishwasher (or the washing machine, for that matter) a time or two a week, rather than multiple times each day? Would your countertops and windows be free of peanut butter smudges and maple syrup fingerprints? Would you ever step again on a stray Lego in the middle of the night? Would your proverbial stable be so clean you could eat off of the floor?
The thing is, my dear friends with twitchy little trigger fingers, we don’t have empty stalls. Our homes are full of strong little people with strong personalities, dirty socks, and toothpaste-crusted bathroom sinks.
The farmer and the mother are both keenly aware that the harvest can only be brought in from the fields with the help of strong animals. And God knew that much of our fruitful mothering lives happen in busy, bustling homes. Our children are part of the harvest themselves, our refinement is part of the harvest, and neighborhood and school friends may be part of the harvest as well, if we are willing to swing wide the stable doors. Embrace the harvest in your home, and thank God for the strong little creatures who are with you in the field each and every day.
It’s all perspective!
This post is an except from the book, "Triggers: Exchanging Parents Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses" by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia.
If you struggle with feeling powerless in your mothering, and are desperate for God’s strength to carry you through those long, emotionally taxing, mothering days, I encourage you to dive into Triggers. Co-authored by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia and published by BRU Press, a division of The MOB Society. Order your copy of Triggers here.