[This is a continuation of a post started yesterday. Click here for the first part.]
After publishing yesterday’s post, I found the picture, below, with Renee’s help (somehow, she knew it was in the purple album on the shelf in the corner, even when I had to wake her to find it).
The photo corrects my memory in some ways – there was only one child, along with a neighbor friend – but it also confirms my memory. You can see the broom laying there across the board at the bottom of the doorway.
I’ve found myself thinking in the last few weeks of a recurring idea that I’ve developed over the years of living in our average-size home with a growing family; what I frequently convey as living with a herd of cattle.
When living with a herd of cattle, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a sense of organization and order. Things get out of shape and messes become the norm. Clean up the room and in 20 minutes it needs to be cleaned again.
Over the years, this experience has worked its benefits in me. I’ve learned to accept a certain level of chaos and disorder, finding that maintaining the levels of perceived order I thought were necessary years ago becomes an exercise in mere vanity – a wasting of time on superficial endeavors of insignificant priority, resulting in the sacrifice of energy better spent on the truly important.
In other words, I can, temporarily at least, find peace with stepping over toys and string cheese scattered across the floor, and reacting calmly to stained clothing and disheveled hair. A small towel with holes in it will make me just as dry as a giant, fluffy, five-star towel.
At some level, maintaining a superficial perception of order and cleanliness is simply and entirely vanity. On another level, I’ve found great value in resisting the disorder, in pushing back the ever-encroaching darkness of entropy and futility.
There is, somehow and in some way, eternal value in the expense of effort toward resisting the onslaught of the darkness of chaos and disorder. There is value in lighting a candle in the darkness, in stiffening your backbone and setting boundaries, in reinforcing the force field.
Hannah screams with delight and yells for Katie to come look at the cleaned shower. Later, she says, “thanks, Dad! Somehow showering in a dirty shower makes you feel like you’re still a little dirty when you’re finished.”
Katie says, “the biggest problem with this bathroom is the clogged sink. The water sitting there is gross and makes it hard to clean anything else.”
Will pesters me for months to build shelves for his room so he can organize his books.
Ethan builds his invention with Legos and carefully places the prototype just beneath the edge of his bed for overnight storage.
Renee vacuums twice a day and goes about the house constantly picking up and putting away, organizing and reorganizing, washing and scrubbing.
Jesus says to Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing, but he also says that one should comb his hair and wash his face when he fasts, and James adds that if we’ll resist the devil, he’ll flee from us, whatever all of that means.
As I pick up little pieces of paper from the lawn, gumwrappers from the driveway, pieces of broken balloon out of the flower bed, and throw the garden stones back into the garden, I think about the woman in Peru with the broom, sweeping her dirt floor.
And I say to myself, “push back the darkness, push back the darkness,” as I envision a light emanating from within our home, from within each of us, that struggles to cast off the bushel, the shade, just for the sake of shining, of resisting the dark.
Hope in the human heart demands action, it requires us to come with patience and understanding to the messes we make, while resisting the lethargy and complacency that would allow us to accept them. Hope and courage move us to take a stand in simple things and simple ways, without regard for whatever difference it might make on some grand, visionary scale.
To stand. To resist. To make a boundary, and enforce it. To rise and declare victory in the face of what seems to be resounding defeat. To sing for joy – even while locked in a prison. To live in the light of meaning and purpose and value, and a prevailing sense of right. To yell “Freedom!” in the face of doom.
As Samwise Gamji cries to Frodo Baggins in their darkest and most despairing hour under the burden of their mission, “Because there is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for, Mr. Frodo!”
We ought to push back the darkness, in all its forms, in all of its subtly invading ways, like the lady with the broom sweeping her dirt floor. I wish I could remember her name. Maybe Michelle will know.
Pastor Jacob came back from his errand along another path and joined us to speak with her and her friend. Both of them accepted our meager, weary, skeptical, dusty offering of a savior that day. They accepted him with a joy that I can’t conceive. They were grateful, and hungry, and hopeful, and giants of truth to this small-minded old man.
I’m sure the simple light they endeavor to shine in that humble space shines brighter than I’ve seen, but it moves me to believe, and to stand.