Friday, March 30, 2012

G. K. Chesterton & Jeff Meyers on Spring Cleaning

Spring is here! It's the time of year to don rain boots (the brighter colored the better) and splash in some puddles. Winter's death is making way for new life. There is more light in the morning, more light in the evening, and growing things are waking up!

All this revitalization makes me look at my home with a critical eye and renewed energy. So when I'm not puddle jumping with my kids, I'm joining the rest of the homemakers who inexplicably feel like deep cleaning their homes this season. Normally I'm a pretty laid back housekeeper, but when the bug bites, I go a little bit OCD. I didn't just tidy my room—I pulled everything out of the closet, organized it, and sent half of it to Exodus for "long term storage." I went through all my kitchen cupboards and stacked everything neatly. I bought a new shower curtain. (IKEA: two bucks!) As I stand in my spick and span house, I have two thoughts to share.

First, cleaning the house is *good.* At the beginning of each week, I walk from room to room and put stuff away that has been used and discarded over the weekend: jammies get hung on the hooks in the bathroom, beds get made, toothbrushes get put away, the floor gets swept... With each thing that I put away, my soul feels a little more at peace. By the end I'm humming, "It is well, it is well, it is well with my soul!" (Yes, I know that hymn is about redemption, not a clean house, but I'm thankful for both.) An ordered environment is peaceful and frees the mind to be creative and constructive, not just go crazy. The more order the better around here.

Look what I found in the dryer!

Table in the Mist - Exodus BooksSecond, a clean house doesn't stay clean. The book of Ecclesiastes has always been balm for my soul when it comes to housecleaning, but during OCD Spring Cleaning week it's even more important. I recently read Table in the Mist, by Jeff Meyers, a most excellent commentary on it. I could write a whole post about how fantastic and life changing it is and how you should read it for yourself, but right now I just want to apply it to this topic. (Buy it. Read it!) We are all familiar with the phrases, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," and, "grasping for the wind," that are used over and over. According to Jeff Meyers, this doesn't mean that life is meaningless. Rather, Solomon is describing life as vaporous. Just as you can't form the steam in the bathroom after taking a hot shower into the shape of a rubber ducky (that comes from Solomon Among the Postmoderns, by Peter Leithart, which is next up on my book list) so you aren't in control of your life. There is nothing we can do here on earth (under the sun) to gain any kind of eternal leverage. Both the wise and the fools die. The inheritance left by a hardworking man is so often taken over by idiots who squander it. We feast one night only to wake up hungry in the morning. We clean the house and then it gets dirty again. And there's nothing to do about it. But the great hope of Ecclesiastes is that though we are not in control, God is and He is a good god—loving and merciful and eternal.

Every weekend we eat quickly and head out the door. Or we get home late and leave clothes piled all over the place. Beds go unmade and toothpaste gets squirted on the bathroom counter. In other words we live. And normally I'm okay with that. But when I get that OCD Spring Cleaning bug and Get This Place Cleaned Up, I'm tempted to get aggravated when people mess it up again. "Don't put that THERE, it's new place is over HERE! Don't drop crumbs behind the bench, I just moved everything and vacuumed! Don't spill, I just mopped!" I feel so out of control!

That's where Ecclesiastes comes in. I'm not in control. I never was. I never will be. And it's okay. Take a deep breath. Eat. Drink. Spill. Enjoy the good of my labor. I can always Spring Clean again next year.

A hand-eye-coordination activity: pouring water back and forth between pitchers. I left the room for a minute and when I came back I heard Joshua say: "Everybody take off your socks and roll up your pants!"

Manalive - Exodus Books"Vapor of vapors. All is vaporous."

Life is like trying to shepherd the wind, but it is not meaningless. I'll close today with a couple of quotes from G. K. Chesterton's Manalive (another life changing book you should read right now!). Innocent Smith has been accused of deserting his wife and family, but it turns out he only left his home so he could find his real one.

"I mean," he said with increasing vehemence, "that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all."

"At the end of the world, at the back of the dawn, I shall find the wife I really married and the house that is really mine. And that house will have a greener lamp-post and a redder pillar-box. Do you never want to rush out of your house in order to find it?"

Someday this vaporous existence will become solid. Like winter turning into Spring, all will be made new, "on earth as it is in heaven." So as we Spring Clean year after year and tidy up day after day, we are witnessing to the fact that Paradise is somewhere and something Real.


  1. I like to remember that God made everything in its time. A time for this and a time for that and He places us in that circuit and tells us to enjoy it. It goes around and around and I am not in control. Thanks for the reminder Amanda!

  2. I'll have to add those books to my to-read list now. And I'm glad we're not the only ones who are so busy on the weekends! Thank goodness for Mondays.