At 9:05 pm, contemplating the food still out, the dishes piled unwashed, the baby crying to be fed, the baby toys scattered, the laundry in the dryer/on the line/in the washer/needing folding (we have a lot of laundry right now)... I quipped: "and now to try and summon the energy to clean what will only get redirty tomorrow..."
This struck a chord, probably with all my fellow home-makers pondering similar tasks at this late hour, with similar energy levels... postponing the inevitable with "one last Facebook peek." My friend (and former Sunday School teacher!!) Holli replied: "My mom used to say we spend our lives rearranging generations of recycled dirt. She was sure she was sweeping out the same dirt Martha Washington had swept." Another laughed: "Welcome to the life of a mother :)" Another, "I've heard it said that cleaning house when there are toddlers around is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos." Yet another posted a quote from Brooke Foss Wescott (1875): "Great thoughts go best with common duties. Whatever, therefore, may be your office, regard it as a fragment of an immeasurable ministry of love", and commented "At least in doing the rote thing over and over, since you do it automatically, you can think greater thoughts than how to do it. I still like hot dishwater and sweeping the floor last thing at night. It's a lot easier without the toddlers, but I miss having those rascals too."
I once heard housekeeping/motherhood described as a "sisyphean task" (Sisyphus being the Greek dude condemned to push the same rock up a hill every day only to have it roll down during the night, until the end of time)... so true.
Isn't pretty much any job like this at some level? We do the same things over and over, because no matter what we do, it's never enough, or the last word, or the final answer... whether we are counselors, farmers, fishermen, social workers, policemen, teachers, engineers, or bankers. As Sara Groves puts it:
"Everyone, everywhere, somewhere, somehow, is setting up the pins for knocking 'em down!
you can find joy in the fertile ground, setting up the pins and knocking em down, [or]
you can try to fight it till you're anger-drowned, setting up the pins." --"Setting Up the Pins"
My friend Mary mentioned her husband Matt's sermon series through Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is one of my all-time favorite books. Such a great antidote to our overly pie-in-the-sky-leave-the-temporal-behind-and-dwell-only-on-the-spiritual-Reformed tendencies. I guess I'd call it Redeemed Hopeful Cynicism. (Yes, I know that's an oxymoron.) It's hard to think God only cares about your "quiet time" with verses like "Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life..." He cares about everything because it's ALL prayer-- or at least, proof that we aren't praying to the Right God! I think I will be listening to Matt's sermons as I clean. :)
I'm just glad that no matter how "unproductive" it seems (because I'm doing it all tomorrow again), I KNOW that it actually doing at least three things: It is producing greater Christ-likeness in me, It is fighting the Curse and bringing a little bit more chaos into Beauty (for a few minutes, anyway). And it serves people who will one day (I pray!) be so glorious that I would be tempted to worship them if I met them in my current state (as CS Lewis put it-- there are no ordinary people). The Sisyphean task of motherhood would surely crush me, were it not for the even greater weight of glory pulling me onward.
But still... it is so tiring. I think that's why I like to do crafts-- at least at the end of my labor there I can hold up a cute dress or quilt or fairy slippers and say "TA DA!" 5 minutes ago ·
"my grandmother had a working song
hummed it low all day long
sing for the beauty that's to be found
in setting up the pins for knocking em down"
Hopefully I can remember to sing for the beauty of comforting a congested little soul wanting his mama in about 3 hours... :)