Being Present in the Mess

Okay surprise of the century, children are messy. But as adults, we have been conditioned to believe that cleanliness is next to godliness. We strive to make ourselves presentable, our homes neat, our life acceptable to onlookers, even if what’s below the surface is actually very very messy. Our hearts can be a wreck, but if our face is clean and our shirt is ironed, we are doing a good job representing what it means to be a functioning person.

But what if the Divine wants us to embrace the messes and accept it for what it is, evidence of our human imperfection, experience, and the need for grace? My daughter is extremely messy, and I struggle to keep our home in order. It’s difficult to do dishes, keep the bathroom clean, the carpets vacuumed, and the laundry done when each task I complete is easily undone by the toddler running around with a tube of lipstick. In these moments, I ask myself: is it the mess that makes me anxious or is the need to manufacture perfection that does it? Maybe both. I definitely think that the outer environment is oftentimes a reflection of our inner selves, but sometimes our desire for organization, cleanliness, and a perfect appearance is just our ego. We don’t just want to be complete, we need it. And we will cling to everything around us to make us feel whole, our painted walls, our made beds, our manicured nails or lawns, the list goes on and on. These completed tasks, these methods of beautifying can often keep us from being present in our lives and with our true selves. When the security of self lies more in the appearance of perfection than the fulfillment of one’s being, we have lost our true purpose. Our true purpose is not to manufacture an untouchable, unspillable, unmessable lifestyle, but it is instead to embrace the colors of our lives, even if they’re splattered all over our walls. We are designed to love others and follow passions, not to repress ourselves into a structure of cleanliness that prevents us from breathing.

In motherhood, I am faced with choices each day. Do the laundry or read a story? Play outside or dust the living room? Obviously we have to be able to function, and we can’t do that without clean underwear. But if I’m not controlled by a sense of urgency to appear perfect or a pressure to perform duties I have hoisted upon myself then maybe I can be more present in the messy moments and even more productive in the moments of necessary ordering.

I believe children are inherently more spiritual than adults. They are innocent, they have fewer walls built up around their hearts, their egos are smaller, and their creativity is immense. They are also inherently messy. Maybe this propensity towards mess is actual something we as adults can learn from. Embrace the experiences, not the outcomes. Indulge your true passions in creativity and life by experimenting with imperfect order. Learn from the babies, watch them play.

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