I’ve been doing a lot of washing lately. On first read this may sound virtuous, or, depending on who is reading this, downright depressing. But for me, when I start hitting the laundry, say, several times a day, it usually means my arms are trying to process what my heart can’t, won’t, or doesn’t want to yet. Sure, it’s not a glamourous or romantic form of escapism. I’m not driving into the sunset, windswept tendrils flying, shirking my responsibilities. I’m bending over a machine, perspiration on my forehead, swirling my confusion in with the powder and dettol. Because, sometimes you just want things to be clear, to see results. A load of dirty, crumpled washing in, a load of clean, fresh-smelling clarity out. Resolution. Achievement. A basket of chaos to a line full of order.
It’s been a messy year.
I’ve done a lot of hours in the laundry.
To get specific without being too specific, there’s been much change, much to-ing and throw-ing, and too much suds-to-the-ceiling emotion. There’s been house-moving (though that is so semi-regular now for us it is almost an upside-down stable); there’s been life direction changes, decisions and indecisions; there’s been church moving. There’s been surprises. And yes, there have also been shocks. Internally we’ve been on a continual spin cycle.
But who ever said the Christian life, the life of faith, was meant to be neat, to be bounded, to be pain free? Sometimes, I think we confuse ourselves into believing salvation and sanctification mean a surface smoothing over, rather than a deep down rescue. We like to think we are suddenly these tidy versions of ourselves, moving in a worry-free, wrinkle-less world.
Of course we need only to squint our eyes to know this isn’t true. Things fall apart. Things tear. We get our loads mixed up. We make mistakes. We are broken people in a broken world.
Yet amidst all this, the Christian life survives, indeed, seemingly contradictorily, it can thrive.
A messy life does not mean a life devoid of grace. Pain doesn’t mean stagnation of faith or eradication of our source of comfort. Actually, it can mean the opposite. All this confusion, even when it doesn’t look like it, even when it all seems to stink and we want to throw the whole lot in the tub and press reboot….Sometimes it’s just then we see it.
Dr M and I are in a stage of watching our kids grow in almost all things almost by the day. In height, words, argumentative power, passion, and skill. Most obviously, they are shooting up physically. All three of our offspring are unusually tall, and our oldest suffers from night cramps in her legs. Her dad tells her, in that way that always reassures her, that he had them too when he was a boy. Growing pains. Her body is stretching and pressing at its limits as it seeks to become what it will one day be.
We all feel it, the now but not yet running through our days, our dreams, our confused relationships, our decisions. And every now and then we catch glimpses of glory too —in a neighbours’ kind act, a friends supportive words, a family member’s radical care, a child’s small victory. I know Dr M and I have. Just when we think it’s all too much, there comes from behind, or the side, a slant of light, a glowing surprise, that reminds us goodness is on our tail. A blazing love runs rings around all our flickering. The mess doesn’t – can’t – defeat the making. The becoming.
If we can just trust amidst the dust, abide beyond our own rope, rest in the one who loves us deep down, right to the end of our fickle, fraying fibres, our painful growth will indeed rise to joy. Maybe not now, but one day soon.