When the Mess Never Goes Away

The bothersome cycle of mess
Over a recent weekend, my husband and I tried to wash every single load of laundry in our home.  It had been building up for a while, so over a two day period, we did load after load, hoping for the world-conquering feeling of seeing every basket empty.  On Sunday evening, it seemed our task was finished.  All I needed to do was put the clean laundry into drawers, and we had achieved our goal.  So you can imagine my husband's surprise when Monday night after the kids had gone to bed, I brought three more laundry baskets out for us to fold.
"Where did this come from?!"  He exclaimed with a look of disbelief on his face.
"Well, this is what we wore this weekend while we were washing the other laundry." I said matter-of-factly.
The reality hit us:  we could never actually have ALL of our laundry done.
It was a never-ending cycle.
So we folded the clothes and went to bed.

Many moms have felt this feeling.
The work is never done.  The messes, the dishes, the clutter, it's always there and it's always threatening to overtake us.  Even if you get part of the house clean, it's a momentary joy when you realize your children messed something else up while you were working diligently.
And I think at the core - for many women - this is bothersome.
Why is that?

Mankind's relationship with mess
To understand our relationship with messes, we have to go back to creation, where God gave Adam a task to do.  In a world of beautiful order, God left a job for man; to categorize and name the animals.  He couldn't really do this job completely on his own, so God graciously gave Adam a helper and a wife named, Eve.  Together, they would subdue the earth, reign over creation and image God with lovely organization.  But we know the story doesn't end there...

Before they finished their work, sin entered the picture leaving Adam and Eve broken and separated from God.
Instead of order, chaos now abounded in the new world.  Instead of categorizing animals in a setting of peace, they would be toiling and working against a system that was constantly falling apart.  Sin wrecked any hope of cleanliness, inside and out.
And this is where our lives are at today.
Defined by wreckage, falling apart, chaos, brokenness, separation, mess and death.  And in this environment, the part of our hearts that was created in God's image, with the original purpose written on our hearts is extremely frustrated by this.  Why can't we just hold things together?  Why can't we just subdue our own little kingdoms and get everything to work together as planned?  Why is order so impossible to achieve?

In our sin, we often try a couple of strategies.
Some of us accept the mess and disorder of our world, and have ceased fighting against it.  We bury that desire for godly order deep down and throw our hands up at the piles of stuff.  If we can't beat 'em - join 'em!  If you can't keep it clean - let it get messy!  We assume that since we can't give our stuff order, there's no point in even trying.

But others of us take a different approach.  The mess brews frustration in our hearts, because we know it's just not right.  We continually strive to pick up, organize, scrub, and strategize for ways to achieve a harmonious space.  Anyone and anything who gets in our way is an obstacle to be mowed down, because we will not have people messing up that which is on it's way to cleanliness.  But even on our best days, we still can't get to the corner of that junk drawer or reach the dust under the furniture.  Deep down we feel the futility.

Jesus redeems the mess
Both approaches deny the reality of the gospel - God's answer to sin, brokenness, and the wreckage left after the garden.  Jesus brings peace, restoration and another way to live in this meantime (knowing that ultimately, God will restore final order to all things).

In the meantime, we don't have to let messes consume us.  We don't have to give into them.  We don't have to throw up our hands and say, "God's ways are too hard, so who cares?!"  But we also don't have to strive to the point of weary, burdensome souls.
  • In Christ, we can acknowledge that we can't ever obtain perfect order, and to try it on our own would be foolish.
  • In Christ, we can see that there is an opportunity to image God in our work, making love our goal instead of tasks.
  • In Christ, we can live in the midst of chaos with the assurance that chaos will not have the last word.
  • In Christ, we can work hard, modeling the importance of subduing our little corner of the kingdom without making ourselves God.
So next time your children find that kleenex box and spew its contents all over one room while you were cleaning another, you can breathe easy.  Not because messes are okay, or because they are God's original design, but because Jesus overcame every type of disorder at the cross.  Next time you are tempted to ignore the battle of laundry, you can say, "Thank you God for the ability to image you in small ways, restoring order little by little in love until your son returns."

And for those of you who think this is a little 'overly-spiritual' for something so worldly, I challenge you to see all things in light of the gospel.  Because our every task and activity has purpose and joy and meaning in light of who God is and who he has made us in Christ.  Only as we rest there will we bring him maximum glory and experience great joy.

Back to Top