If you want to have a clean, orderly house, and a calm, peaceful life, don’t have children. Your sleep will be un-interrupted, your walls will remain free of grubby hand-prints, your nice wood tables will never get water-rings on them, and the carpets will last forever. Without children, your living room will finally look exactly like that photograph in the IKEA catalog (or Southern Living, or Better Homes and Gardens).
Of course, in doing so you will never experience the incredible blessing that children bring into our lives. It’s chaotic and crazy and completely overwhelming, but being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life. Having children is part of God’s plan for us as humans, which is why the pain of infertility is so deep and so real. Not being able to partake fully of this blessing (snotty noses, dirty feet, cracked plates and all) is a significant loss.
Life is messy, but that’s part and parcel of the world we live in. If we want to see God work in our lives, we have to be willing to let go of our desire to control everything.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.
Please hear me clearly--children are not livestock! We don’t use them for cheap labor (well, not much). And even they are cleaner than oxen are. However, the underlying principle is the same. Just as there can’t be a harvest without oxen to plough the fields, you can’t have a “next generation” without dirty diapers, stomach aches, missed curfews and broken hearts.
We spend untold amounts of time, energy, and effort trying to avoid mess—obsessively cleaning our home and our hands, creating and re-creating endless new systems for organizing our lives, yelling at our children for “messing things up,” and constantly sanitizing everything in sight (including some products that now promise to sanitize the very air we breathe).
However, it’s out of mess that God often works to bring incredible blessing and growth. As you read through Acts and Paul’s letters to the early church, the mess created by these first Christian communities is sometimes astonishing. And yet it was through those first believers that God worked to grow and establish the Church and begin to grow His Kingdom. He didn’t drop it down from Heaven, clean, shiny and un-contaminated by human touch. He chose instead to work through deeply flawed people, thrown together into messy, broken communities.
How has your desire for things to be “neat and tidy” impacted your relationships with others or led to decisions you now regret? What are some ways in which a desire for control has kept you from following through on things God has called you to do?
One day Jesus will return and restore everything to pristine perfection. There will be no more lying, no more cheating, no more ox mangers to clean, and no more half-eaten yogurt snacks left under the couch for a week while you wonder what on earth that smell is. It will be a glorious day.
In the meantime, I have to go wash my hands—I don’t know where this keyboard has been.