My life feels busy—sometimes crazy busy. While homeschooling five kids who are in various activities, it feels like a lot of juggling to make it all work. And although I aspire to have a clean and organized home, the reality is that I am so not there. I can even feel the chaos creeping in—a few more dirty dishes in the sink, a few more books piled on the counter, a few more puzzle pieces left out. Then, if I’m not careful, it’s full on crazy-town house, where there is crusted play dough on the carpet, piles of dirty clothes, and don’t even ask about the kitchen. What happened? Why is it so chaotic? Because kids? Because I’m a bad house keeper? Because my hubby doesn’t pick up the slack?
It’s not really any of that. It’s that my surroundings begin to dictate my feelings, and I have let the chaos in. It enters through my perception of my circumstances. Because the truth really is that even if I had a perfect system and was on top of my schedule and my house was perfectly clean and my kids were actually tiny self-cleaning robots, these things would not guarantee my sanity—and I would not automatically have peace. Because there would always be something else. Because the enemy doesn’t play fair, and even if I had the best hand, he’d throw in the ace he’s hidden up his sleeve. He cheats by whispering: You aren’t good enough. You haven’t cleaned up enough. You are failing miserably, and it is your fault. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Because it’s not an equation. Because a clean house doesn’t equal success whereas a messy house equals failure. Because there are seven of us and we are all still learning how to live together. Because we all need grace Every. Single. Day. Grace says, I refuse to judge you for your sticky floor because I see your heart and know that making pancakes with your toddler says love so much more than a freshly mopped floor. Grace says, yes the space is cluttered but let’s work on this together as a team—without blaming or casting judgment on the sloppiest child (who also may be the most creative). Grace says, in the midst of the chaos—the whirling storm of judgment beating down on your soul—choose peace.
In the gospels, there is an account of Jesus calming a literal storm. Jesus was with his disciples late one night on a boat, and a “furious” storm broke out, where waves were actually crashing into the boat. The storm was so terrible that the disciples thought they were going to die. And in the middle of this awful storm, Jesus was sound asleep. He was at complete peace in the middle of complete chaos. The chaos was around but it was not within. “The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:38-39)
I am reminded of Jesus on that boat when I think about my daily struggles. When I choose to reject those critical voices within, the storm calms and there is peace. Because there will be seasons that things don’t look perfect on the outside. There will be sticky counters and messy projects and piles of laundry. And so the storms will rage. But looking past the outward, going deep within—that is the place to find rest. And this is a reminder to me, to choose peace in the middle of my mess.
As the years have gone by and I’ve personally grown and matured in both my walk (with the Lord) and in my professional life, I’ve come to recognize how easy it is to neglect the basics. In a society that is so fast-paced, technologically proficient, and “connected”, we’ve also become disconnected from the world around us. I believe we are, at this moment, the most informed and connected we’ve ever been as a culture, yet we are simultaneously the most disconnected as well.
I’ve found myself in my interactions with people becoming less patient, tolerant, and even making less eye contact. When someone says, “Good Morning, how are you?” my (our) responses tend to be brief and invite little to no additional engagement, i.e. I’m fine/good. I even question my own motive for asking this basic question (How are you?) as to whether or not I want a genuine answer. If we look at the world around us, the pain, the hurt, the trauma, it’s pretty evident that there are a number of people who are simply not “ok”.
This has slowly but surely broken my heart on many occasions to know that someone may need more than a placid greeting, but our time is so limited that we cannot afford people any depth or meaning. When we consider the life of Jesus and how he spent his time, I am convicted at how often Jesus simply sat with people with the goal of serving them and loving them (e.g., Mark 2:13-17; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 19:1-10; John 4:1-26).
In review of the above-mentioned verses, it is clear that Jesus was connected to the people around him in ways that illustrated GOD’s love for them. And though I’ve shared several examples of how we engage (or are disengaged) I hope to juxtapose these two examples so that we, as believers, reconsider the “small things” in terms of how we interact with the community/world around us.
James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Jesus was the perfect example of this balance … his heart was for the people, and not just “his” people/friends, but those who were hurting, suffering, and in need. As I reflect on my life and my journey, I readily realize that I’ve woefully neglected pure religion as defined by scripture. I know widows, fatherless, homeless, and I’ve neglected to visit them, spend time with them, and give of my resources to meet their needs. See, sometimes, “how are you” is an excuse to close off a longer, broader conversation that may remove us from our agenda for the day. But isn’t that what pure religion is? It’s not bound by our Google Docs, our Outlook calendars, or Facebook status updates … it’s the simple notion that Love can be spelled T-I-M-E, and as GOD’s representatives on this earth, we are obligated, morally, ethically, and spiritually, to be tangible tentacles of his Love.
So, as you go about prioritizing your day tomorrow, consider this – Who needs more than a “how are you” in passing today? Who needs a visit? A Hand? A Hug? A Smile? Who can you love today, that even if they can’t return it, it is the right thing to do? (Change this sentence to ‘Who can you love today? Even if they can’t return it, it is the right thing to do.) Let’s get back to simplicity and living out the Love of Christ.