Each summer my children have spent a month or so in Mississippi with my parents, freeing me up to adult in peace and rest from the ever present of pressure of parenthood. I love them, but I appreciate them more–and they appreciate me more–when they’re gone for a little minute. Meanwhile, while they are gone, I take a few of my days off to clean their spaces. Not their kind of clean–I put in the kind of clean that sweeps every book and cranny, lifting beds and moving dressers to sweep.
I used to find myself angry and frustrated because my GAWD. If you have kids–particularly preteens and teens–you know how they get. Shoot, I know how I was. Old empty chip bags and cereal bowls flicked behind my bed posts after midnight snacking where I’d forget them until it smelled or my mama did her cursory sweep of my room when I was gone. Just gross.
Anyway, I’d be mad because here I am cleaning, moved a mattress and bam! Chicken bone hits me. Chicken bone, fam? Or the time a whole baggie of melted candy from Christmas was stuck to the wall behind the bed. Child. I felt some type of way about it: was I that terrible of a parent that none of my fussing or examples made a difference? That I would be accosted by chicken bones and melted Christmas candy? Don’t they understand about ants and roaches? And just being clean altogether? What is my life?
And I would cuss and fuss and shame them into hating me and my cleaning ways–which, coincidently, only kicked in years after I fled my mother’s anxious, ritualistic cleaning habits.
But this last round of cleaning was easier. I realized that I had been asking them–fussing at them to do something that they could not do. And so I began to work to make it easier beforehand. All year long, we removed every extra piece of clothing that neither fit nor was ever worn. We gave away toys, games, and puzzles that had not been touched for YEARS, fam. We separated their rooms. We threw away old remnants of weave, basically empty bottles, and old papers. We donated books. We rearranged life one step at a time until it was manageable for them and less work for me. I got some pushback from my youngest child, my packrat. But we ultimately came to agreement: the things I was asking her to release served no purpose except to create opportunity for messes that we could avoid.
This time as I cleaned during their vacation, I found myself not angry. I found myself only halfhearted chiding them via some lame text messages that I really didn’t mean because it was so much better than all the times before. I found myself actually thinking about God. How God loves me, how God cleans up my messes and puts my sins far away from me when I repent. I found myself recognizing that my kids cannot clean their rooms all by themselves like I want it–but that I knew exactly how I wanted it to be. In that same manner, God knows how God wants us to be–what it means to walk in the plan and purpose He created us for.
The fact is, we can never get ourselves right; we can choose the desire to be right, but ultimately only God can clean us up. And much like my kids will do when they come home to every cobweb swept from every dark corner, we can made decisions about how clean we our lives want to remain after God has done a work. But only God can clean us up.
“But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Matthew 15:13 KJV
In fact, the desire to be cleaned up at all comes from God.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44 KJV
And then, too, the power to stay clean is a gift from God that we must receive and walk each new day.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV
As you continue on this walk with God, all you have to do is trust the process enough to say yes when God asks you to change some things and keep saying yes even when your fleshy self wants to do otherwise (Galatians 5:17-18). If you trust God’s way, God will make you clean inside and your life will bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and that fruit shall remain (John 15:16).