I’ve seen prayers answered. But often, in my experiences, if you get what you pray for, you’ve really shortchanged yourself.
- Anne Lamott
Hope is a song in a weary throat. –Rev. Pauli Murray
We cleaned and cleaned (and cleaned) the house last Saturday. The kind of all-day cleaning that leaves you bone-weary when you finally hit the bed after all has gone quiet and you have stopped picking up and moving around and dusting and scrubbing and saying ew. (Boys+bathrooms=ew.) There’s always so much work to be done.
There isn't much of an intellectual stretch between cleaning house and "cleaning house"–hearts, lives, relationship with God.
Would faith, for instance, be lighter and brighter, clearer and easier to digest if it weren't for all the stuff–the doctrine, theology, arguments and divisions, denominations, religions? Of course it would.
You know how the clutter in your home can leave you paralyzed? You just can't think straight if there are too many things around, too many lists, just too much stuff?
I allowed a lot of clutter to build up around my faith. Sometimes I felt I was working so hard, doing the next right thing, doing all the hoop-jumping just to try to stay sane and still, life sneaks up with death and disease and all of its hard business. Then I felt as if I was told, subtly and not, that I was most likely not trying hard enough, not doing the right things, to have peace.
So I was mad and I questioned my faith. The whole time, though, I never felt void of God, because I think once you have opened yourself to experience God, he doesn't ever go away, no matter how messy or doubtful or confused we are.
He was there all the while even before I saw him, really saw him, and now I can't unsee him.
I know he wants me to feel peaceful in the middle of all of this rubbish, but I don't know how. When there is approximately one square foot of uncovered counter space and the bedding hasn't been washed in a month, peace is invisible. There are times when I can't seem to rise up and try. Relationships are strained and kids are rebellious and really? Another cold? Peace again becomes invisible to my cluttered mind and heart and yet, it is there.
Mess and chaos and pain or peaceful and clean and quiet–do we see him? Do we allow ourselves to see that he is still there? The song of a bird, the puckered lips of the newborn, the messy home. Is he there?
I don't often see him in the mess. I refuse. I choose to see him where I would like to meet with him. In the trees on a walk, in just the right kind of church, in the face of someone I love. He makes the most sense that way. But do I remember to see him in doubt, in breakdowns and broken marriages and addiction and piles? When I am sobbing at the pain of it all?
Sometimes I know that God is still on my side (and yours) only because I keep going and there is absolutely no way I am walking on my own.
At the end of The Big Saturday Cleaning Day, I fell weary to the pillows and it felt so good. The house was clean, the sheets fresh with wash. And I thought, Let me not mistake this feeling of goodness that comes with doing for a peace that is exclusive to good works.
Because it's good to do well... to pick ourselves up and do the good things we don't feel like doing. Life is smoother. And yet peace is born of hope and hope is still a song in a weary throat. We are weary from all the messes, and messes are where hope is born.
What lies beneath the clutter is the image we are made in, and that is One that is peace, whether we've cleaned house or not.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.