Today's whack upside the head.....

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.....courtesy of Elisabeth Elliott:

It is not easy to find children or adults who are dependable, careful, thorough, and faithful. So many lives seem honeycombed with small failures, neglectful of the little things that make the difference between order and chaos. Perhaps it is because they are so seldom taught that visible things are signs of an invisible reality; that common duties may be "an immeasurable ministry of love." The spiritual training of souls must be inseparable from practical disciplines, as Jesus so plainly taught; "The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches! And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?" (Luke 16:10-12, JB)

It's hard for us to think that that unmade bed, or that messy car, might be a visible sign of a not so nice invisible reality, isn't it? But I know that in my case it is certainly and completely true. When I allow all the little things in my life to get out of control, it is only a sign that the interior of my life is out of control as well.

I don't know if it is the chicken or the egg. But when I make the effort to do the small things that keep our family life on track--timely washed clothes (not washed in panic or to order), decent meals (not just something grabbed at random), a picked up and organized house (not one that you have to hunt through the piles to find the play tickets) it seems like the whole of our lives, including our spiritual lives, run better.

So whether the spiritual malaise comes first, leading to the messy house, or the messy house comes first, leading to the spiritual messiness, it really doesn't matter. Getting the environment in order puts the rest in order. I know it's possible to have a vibrant spiritual life in the midst of chaos. But I wonder. Is it possible to have a vibrant spiritual life in the midst of self-created clutter?


That Elisabeth Elliott! She is (as usual)right on the money. I can most certainly attest to it in my life. This is one of the lessons I am trying to instill in my children's life.

Perhaps it depends on the *why* of the messiness. If it is lazy messiness at my house, even when lazy = legitimately exhausted, it is linked to the spiritual messiness. But if it is creative messiness (like when the dishes don't get done because of another big project, or my sewing gradually takes over the room until the project is done) then I think the drive of the project keeps a rhythm going even when it isn't exactly the rhythm of the made bed and washed dish.


This reminds me of a quote from Holly Pierlot in A Mother's Rule of Life: "Sloppy bedrooms often mean sloppy grades." I have to say I disagree with her on this--in fact I disagreed so strongly when I first read it that I put the book down for several months because of that one, seemingly unfounded statement. Now I can at least see that she says "often", but I still think it is a little too broad a stroke. Perhaps it is all in the definition of sloppy.... Perhaps it is because I see a wide chasm between sloppy and "chaos", and the small things that keep us from chaos, like timely laundry, still do not insure tidyness as some might define it. I'm a SHE, can you tell? :)


I don't agree mamaT

I think most people have enough to cope with in the daily buinsess of living without being scruplous and anally retentive about order. If you have food in the house, clean clothes and a meal on the table, as a mum you are doing well. An obsesson with cleanliness, order and routine is to me symptomatic of mental trouble. All most women and for that matter men can do is their best and hope for the best, impossibly high standards that some people set for themselves is not good for them or their families. I would much prefer a happy wife, mother and family than a perfect home.


I think I'll start by cleaning the car this week-end. Time to get rid of McDonald's wrappers, children's church bulletins, miscellaneous garments etc. (Of course, I get to keep any change I find... :) )

Interesting post MamaT. I can see both sides of this one. I wonder if it's partly cultural though. The joke about Irish households is that spiderwebs are "Irish lace".

The German side of my family was neat as a pin. Everything in its place. The Irish were more slovenly. The German side criticized the Irish side, but since I can't see into souls I have no idea which side was holier.

Then, of course, there's the Southern angle: fussing about tidiness is a very Yankee trait. But there's a great deal in EE's observation that corresponds to the Opus Dei view that each of us strives for holiness not only by prayer and meditation but by doing our everyday duties faithfully and well.

One needs to consider the interior as well as the exterior of seeming disorder. There is a difference between disordered priorities and different priorities.
Most nights we do the dishes before we go to bed. But if a child needs our undivided attention for whatever reason, the dishes can wait. Sometimes getting enough sleep, or getting out of the house, or going to an even, will trump the routine mundanity of housewifery. But when the routine is never done well, then one must re-examine one's priorities, no?

I think you're exactly right, Alicia.

Of course, anyone who knows me in my real life knows that I value your priorities exactly. And probably most people who read the blog for any length of time do as well.

OF COURSE it is always people before things. And sometimes, in our hectic lives, it is necessary to step back and play, even if it means that the house stays a wreck one more day....

But if rampant clutter and chaos is the norm, then in my house it means that I have brain clutter and chaos as well. And that clutter and chaos in my head also pushes out my spiritual discipline as well.

Lex vivendi, lex credendi.

This is one to post on the fridge (or the forehead.) Especially for those of use whose primary daily work is caring for the home and the family.

I used to buy into that whole "neatness is the sign of a boring mind" mentality. No more. I've been sloppy and I've been somewhat neat, and daily life goes so much better when I make the extra effort to think ahead.

And even in my creative projects, I find it much easier to come back to work when I put in the extra five minutes to keep my supplies and work area tidy.

There's a difference between the neatness of which you speak and"scrupulousness". I know for myself that when I'm attentive to order, it makes the daily business of my life much, much easier. I've found Flylady immensely helpful in this regard.

Not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination. But learning.



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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on October 13, 2005 7:55 AM.

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