Embrace the Chaos

Embrace the chaos.  I can’t tell you how often I find myself saying that, whether it’s to myself (usually), offhandedly to random strangers who stop me in the middle of a shopping trip to inquire how I “do it,” or to someone who is overwhelmed by children, be they mine or their own: embrace the chaos.

Now, there’s a real limit to that.  I’m not suggesting a lack of discipline, or a messy house, crazy noise levels, or food-streaked faces.  I’m not saying that we should abandon order.  But with three under three–with small children, period, perhaps–there will be chaos sometimes, and sometimes you’ve got to just learn to roll with the punches and keep your eyes on eternity.  God made kids.  Then He gave us these kids.  He didn’t give them grown-up brains or grown-up emotions or grown-up self-cleaning abilities. This is life, and it is good, in a tainted-by-sin-but-still-in-His-image kind of way.

(If I were a more laid-back person naturally, my message to myself might be find the order or something like that, but I’m the sort of person who over-stresses and gets wound up about the little things.  Chaos is not my desired cup of tea, although this is not to be confused with neatness, which is another issue for another post.)

There’s one giant, simple lesson that has come out of this for me: messes usually look bad, but don’t really take long to clean.

789891_red_wine(Or: messes aren’t worth the emotional investment and stress that I attach to them sometimes.)

Let’s say one-year-old grabs the rice off the counter and upends the entire box onto the floor.  It’s a disaster, it’s loud, and if I see it happening and can’t stop it, there’s a lot of despair that passes through my mind as I watch the sea of white scattering over the floor.  A lot of hideous, ungodly, selfish despair.

And guess what? The whole mess can be cleaned up in well under five minutes, and the financial damage is probably less than that candy bar I just ate.  If you stop to think about it, there’s very, very few messes that a watched toddler can make that can’t  be cleaned up in less than five minutes.  The big unearthly messes are pretty flukey, or else I’m not doing the “mommy” job very well.  (Or, perhaps, the house hasn’t been properly outfitted for toddlers.)

I can’t tell you how much energy I waste being stressed out about messes, literal or metaphorical, that are pretty easy to clean back up.  I’m finding that it really helps me to take a millisecond to step back, evaluate how much sacrifice is really required to “fix it,” and base my response on that rather than what the mess looks like itself.

So, when those giant-looking messes unfold before my eyes, I try just to take a deep breath, evaluate the damage, and plod along to clean it up. Hopefully without getting unjustly angry or selfishly snippy towards the offending child in the process. 

It might be a little bit of chaos, but it’s usually going to be okay, and sometimes, it might even be fun.

a solid grip on depravity

One day, quite some months ago now, E  (who is two) responded to one of my reprimands with a violent, “But I don’t want to be good, I want to be BAD! I AM BAD!”

Well, yes, yes you are, little one.  You don’t even know how bad you are.  Mommy’s bad, too.  It’s called sin. It’s called needing Jesus. It’s called deserving hell.

SONY DSCNeedless to say, I agreed with her out loud, and the dialog has been ongoing ever since.  We were driving back from the farm last week, and her little voice calls me from the back of the van, completely out of the blue: “But does R sin, Mommy?”  Her questions are kind of endless and often off-topic, but it’s beginning to be clear that she really, truly understands after all this that she is bad.  And that Mommy is bad.  And that bad people deserve punishment.

That’s all the farther that we’ve gotten. She knows about heaven and Jesus, but clearly isn’t grasping yet that bad people don’t go to heaven except by His grace and His blood.  Still, this is a little piece of the Gospel she’s grabbed a hold of, and it’s so very exciting to witness the pieces begin to fall together, wherever God takes her.  And it’s been a really good reminder to me of the Gospel itself, as I struggle to put it in two-year-old vocabulary.  (The biggest stumper so far: she asked me why Adam and Eve’s sin meant that all their descendants would sin, too. I couldn’t begin to string together an answer that made sense to her.)

No better Gospel.

I’ve been reading this biography of Spurgeon (did you know he was the eldest of seventeen children?!?), and I find that one passage has stuck unyieldingly in my head [chapter 1]:

C. H. Spurgeon had been announced to preach at Haverhill in Suffolk, and–an exceptional incident–he was late in arriving. So his grandfather began the service and, when the expected preacher did not arrive, proceeded with the sermon. The text was “By grace ye are saved.” He had gotten some way into his discourse when some unrest at the door made him aware that his distinguished grandson had arrived. “Here comes my grandson,” he exclaimed. “He can preach the Gospel better than I can, but you cannot preach a better Gospel, can you, Charles?”

There’s so much grace–so much truth–in that simple assertion! The best preacher in history still can’t improve on the Gospel.

Taking things literally…

Our car shop is in walking distance, so S left after he got home, on foot, to pick up our car. This conversation promptly ensued:

E: Where did Daddy go?
Me: He went to get the car.
E: Oh, it’s fixed already!?
Me: Mmm-hmm.
E: Where did Daddy go?
Me: He went to pick up the car.
E: He can’t lift up the car, it’s too heavy!
Me: (laugh) that’s true… I mean… he went to get the car, to bring the car.
E: Oh. (long pause) Did the neighbors fix our car?