Labor Day is a great opportunity to just have a day. What a gift…a day off of work, to invest in whatever one might like to do. I’ve certainly enjoyed this extra day as a beach day, family day, picnic time or chance to take a trip over a long weekend. This year the “to do” list was too long, so we stayed home. No children are here, as they are all adults living away from home, which now that I think about it is probably part of the reason the list is so long here. There was a day when we had three young, strong people doing chores for their parents…now we just have us, the parents…and we get tired!
My thought about three hours into my list, in the midst of sweeping the driveway, was…life sure gets messy fast. The thought ran through my mind and gained traction. Yes, yes it does. The garage needs to be organized and cleaned (again), the yard needs attention, pipes need to be fixed, floors could use a mopping, dust is accumulating, painting needs to happen in several places…there are piles in my office that have been there for weeks. Mail needs to be opened, letters answered, email inboxes cleaned…. The kitchen…well the list is very long in there. Mercy. We put a lot of energy into cleaning, now and then. But for the most part, we maintain. And then we reach that messy stage and an intervention needs to happen.
I make a plan to strategically fix what needs to be fixed, and keep everything orderly and clean. Lists abound, and yet inevitably I come home from work, or finally make it to the weekend, and I just don’t do what I was supposed to do. There is a sort of dark cloud of “unfinishedness” hanging over my brain. Honestly, it makes me even more tired than any part of cleaning up.
As Labor Day wore on and some order came to a few places in and around our home, I continued to ponder the “life gets messy fast” thought. I know the sweeping I did will have to be repeated soon, and the yard will need attention in a week, dusting and vacuuming will last for just a few days…and dishes, every day more dishes pile up. How can two people use that many dishes? I’m just not very good at all of this, has also been a recurring thought.
It occurred to me mid-sweep in my driveway that part of the trick of living this messy life is perhaps to come to terms with the fact that life will always be messy. Even with great strategies, there will be a need to clean. It will be messy in my house…and in general everywhere I look. As soon as one place is put in order, another becomes messy. So I can live in a state of frustration and push to constantly fix and clean, or I can learn to gracefully do my best, and maybe even enjoy the process. It does actually feel good to bring order…even if it doesn’t last very long. Hm.
I had another thought as my cleaning pondering continued. Life gets messy fast in deeper ways too. There are relationships that need work and attention. It has been too long since I’ve talked to some important people. A few mis-spoken words have maybe caused hurt that could be growing like the weeds in my garden—except that these are invisible weeds that need careful attention in uncomfortable places. Past hurt rears up in my mind and heart and messes with my todays sometimes. Lack of forgiveness…there’s something that can cause deep disarray. How do I go about cleaning up these types of messes?
I think it all isn’t a whole lot different than cleaning my house. The first thing that needs to happen is that I have to get up and start. I have to move. I have to write the note, make the call, or set up the appointment. I have to think and make a plan, seek to understand what I’m looking at and how it got that way. In these deeper messy places, I have to add another “cleaning” strategy I think: I need to pray and listen. I need approaches that don’t come from my brain, but from my Father who knows how to clean and heal.
The Labor Day lessons I learned also tell me to do my best and enjoy the process. I can’t let the volume of mess cause me to be paralyzed. It will slowly get set right…whether it is a wood pile or a friendship…I must stay at it. Keep cleaning. Keep working. Keep praying. Listen. Live freely, love well. Life can get messy fast, but there is always hope. And once something is set right, I’m learning to take a moment to savor the beauty of the outcome…even if it only lasts for a little while.