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Yesterday morning I found myself sitting on the floor in front of the shelves of board books at our local library, putting said books in alphabetical order. There was a book I’ve been seeking for several weeks. While I normally place holds on the books we want to read, this particular title was listed as “Available” at our local branch. I try not to “waste” my 50-max-at-a-time hold slots with materials I can walk in and pull off the shelf myself. But the book eluded me.
I realized upon looking at the catalog (again) that while our local branch listed it under the “Easy” section, other libraries shelved the title in the “Board Book” section. I made the mental note to check upon our next visit.
I quickly realized that searching by the author’s last name was going to be a bit of a challenge because the board book shelving was a bit more like alphabet soup than anything else.
So I plopped down on the floor went to work – checking my watch every few moments because I was on a deadline and had to leave in 30 minutes. I got about up to the H’s when I ran out of time. The book was still no where to be found.
That said, there was something REMARKABLY SATISFYING about alphabetizing the shelves.
(At one point in my childhood I believed that being a librarian was my dream career. I think that, in some alternate reality, I’m a single spinster who takes great pride in my alphabetized library shelves.)
While I was sitting there reveling in the pleasure of alphabetizing books, I felt a bit silly. I mean, I wasn’t getting paid for this. Little hands would probably come by in the next hours or days and undo everything I had done. But I shook off the thoughts as, “Well, this is fun, so I don’t care!”
Maybe fun isn’t the right word, as much as it was filling a need…a craving…a constant search for order.
I’ve been very open in the past about my self-ascribed “struggle” with perfectionism, obsession, and striving for control.
- Confessions of a recovering perfectionist
- perfection is not possible
- Obsession, Regret, Anger, Projection: My Latest Breakthrough
- A raw look at my never-ending war on perfectionism
Admittedly, I view these parts of my psyche as more of a character flaw than anything else. Sure, I may laugh it off by making funny memes about label makers or sharing GIFs of Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Monica from Friends.
But in the quiet spaces of my soul I whisper to myself unkind words like anal-retentive and control freak.
A few days ago, though, I listened to a podcast episode that nudged my heart to find the beauty in this aspect of my personality.
I am made in the image of God, and that is beautiful. Every person has within him or her the image of God. It is our role…our job as His creation to bear that image well and show that image to those around us.
Order is part of God’s personality. When I lean in to those parts of myself that He created, I am demonstrating that part of Him in my life.
Laura: So where messes come from, it’s the creation-fall-redemption story. Originally, we were given the task to care for God’s creation, and there was order in the world and it was beautiful. Adam and Eve were able to keep up with everything and they were the caretakers.
Emily: Then of course we know sin entered and that brought into creation death, disorder, chaos, and brokenness, and that has not only affected our hearts but it has affected all of creation. Now everything we do leaves a wake of disorder and chaos, and that is obviously seen in our homes. As stuff is always kind of falling apart, we are having to try to bring it together, but its natural state is almost like it is in chaos.
Laura: That’s the whole idea, that you can never get ahead and that is simply because of the fall. Every time we talk through stuff like this, I’m like, “Man, that just goes back to the fall.” It goes back to the fall: disease, death, chaos, mess. So there truly is “meaning in the mess,” (as they tend to say), and I love that because it gives more purpose – especially when you feel that you can’t keep up. It is one of those, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be and there’s deeper meaning behind it.”
Emily: Also, the Gospel-hope is that Christ came and he’s given us redemption, and eventually he will restore all things to perfect order. We can usher in just a little bit of that order as we clean up our home and our daily lives, and we try to give order to our domain; where we live. We can be thoughtful homemakers – we don’t say, “Hey, the mess is just part of our lives right now.
Laura: Yes, we’re imaging redemption. It can sound like, “Oh, this is way deep,” talking about how dirty dishes in the sink reflects the Gospel, but again, that’s what we want to talk about on Risen Motherhood. That the Gospel literally affects everything. It may sound like a stretch; it may sound like we’re trying to squeeze it in, but it’s reality. When you are scrubbing dishes, you are living out the redemption story: how Christ’s work on the cross has made you clean as you make these dishes clean. Again, it’s not something where it’s like every single time we’re doing the dishes I’m thinking about the cross, but I should be – I could be.
Emily: I always have this question about my bed. Why should I make my bed? I’m just going to get right back in it again, and my husband is the bed maker in our family, and he is like, “Because it feels so good to get in a clean bed.” We’re different personalities for that, but I get what he’s saying. He’s saying there’s purpose and there is meaning in the doing of these tasks, even though they are repetitious, and they are mundane and it’s the same thing over and over again, because God is the ultimate orderer. He’s organized and He has intentionally placed things. He is not a God of sloppy and falling apart, and, “Oh, I haven’t thought about that.”
We want to be image bearers of Him, and in making the bed, I’m imaging bringing order to this, restoring that, making it well presented. I feel like God presents everything beautifully to us and so we want to present things beautifully in our home.
So the next time I find my inner voice chiding myself for making too big a deal about order, I’m going to remember these words.
I hope that you take the time to listen to this podcast episode and that it encourages you. Whether you are a “type A mama” or disorganized, beautiful mess, I pray that you feel God’s love upon your life and find ways to bear His beautiful image in your personality.