Picking up other people’s messes

Much of my day is spent sweeping, wiping, washing and picking up messes that I didn’t make. Often, I’ll ask one of my able bodied boys for help in cleaning up one of the many messes of the day. One of the surest ways to catch my wrath is the answer, “But I didn’t make this mess!”

“Neither did I!” I don’t strew games and puzzles all over the floor. I don’t pour out boxes of cereal and stomp the Cheerios to powder. I don’t spread applesauce on the counter and my face and shirt when I eat my lunch. In fact, I contribute almost nothing to the mess-making in my household.

I complained about this phenomenom to my sister one morning and in her uncommon way she gently replied, “I’ve thought about that a lot too. And I get really tired of cleaning. But isn’t that what Christ does? He spends all his time picking up other people’s messes.”

I was stunned. I know motherhood is a divine work, a godly work, but I’d never considered the day-to-day tasks of mothering to be so Christlike. Here is God Himself, the Almighty, the Everlasting, the Saviour of the World and his work is the humble care of people. He works constantly to encourage, to lift and to care for the human family.

But more than anything else, Jesus Christ, cleans up human messes. In fact he constantly cleans up messes that he had no part in making, messes that he warned us about in scripture, messes that he begged and pleaded with us to avoid. Yet, when I do make a mess of my life I can turn to Christ, beg for relief, plead for forgiveness and He gently and kindly helps me clean up.

I suppose this is why we are warned so often not to judge others. I make so many mistakes of my own that it’s foolish to point out other’s foibles. And this is also why we are told to serve and help each other. If we truly want to be like Christ much of our time will be spent cleaning up after other people.

Now, none of these musings mean that my kids will get out of their chores today. It’s my job to send them out in the world knowing how to clean a toilet, vacuum a floor and do their laundry. But it does lend a sacred aspect to the chores they can’t do themselves: washing a baby, preparing a meal, cleaning up after a sick child.

Yesterday in a fit of excitement over the dawn of Halloween season Gabriel pulled our ceramic pumpkin out of the basement. As he triumphantly carried into the hallway his little hand slipped and the pumpkin crashed to the floor and shattered. Ben and I both ran to the scene. Gabriel was on his hands and knees picking up shards of pumpkin. His blue eyes were filled with tears and a ribbon of blood ran down his hand. For a moment I thought Ben would scold him as big brothers do, but he told Gabe, “Run into the other room and let mom get you a bandaid. I’ll clean this up.”

And he did.

October 1, 2007
October 5, 2007

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1 Comment

  1. Bonnie

    March 16, 2008

    Aww, Ben’s such a good brother!

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