There’s a battle going on in my teenage daughters’ room today. I’m not talking about an interpersonal dispute, although they’ve had their share. This battle involves certain protective restraints I’ve lovingly imposed on the two of them over the years.
They’ve always been expected to make their beds and keep things generally neat. They’ve learned to vacuum, do laundry, scrub toilets, and clean up scattered school supplies—sometimes under duress.
Always, I’ve hovered in the background, ready to reorganize closets when things get out of hand, replace dirty sheets, and remove clutter that builds up over time. They’ve come to expect my intervention, and they love me for it. But something more is needed. Something more than just sliding a copy of The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room under their door as a gentle reminder that clean-up is about to happen and that some help would be appreciated.
In my heart, I’ve often wished they would help a bit more and be consistent. Mostly I’ve longed for them to see the value not only in making things neat, but in keeping things neat in the first place.
Experience has taught me that actions proceed from values. And, until now, they’ve been restrained entirely by my values, not theirs. So it’s time for me to gently let go, withdraw my loving restraints to a degree, and let things get messy in there for a while. Really messy.
Because they’ve never seen “really messy” before. Not in our house. And, because of the way I’ve raised them, I’m fairly certain they won’t like it. (I know I won’t.) Eventually they’ll be moved to action. At some point they will realize they must be thinking participants in the process of creating and maintaining beauty, order and peace.
Wasn’t that the point of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness longer than they expected to, or of the decades and sometimes centuries of captivity and sorrow? Those who were crushed weren’t crushed by circumstances. They were crushed by despair and by their own attitudes. The Josephs and the Daniels rose above. They recognized meaning in the chaos and God’s hand in the process.
Isn’t that also the point of our existence in this miserable, violent, hopelessly messy world? That we might learn to value beauty, order and peace—and actually become part of the solution? That we might, once and for all, come to recognize how fully God is in control, and that He has our best interests in mind? I’m counting on it.
More than ever, I understand God’s loving perspective with regard to this messy world. He restrains Himself, for a time and to a degree, from stepping in to clean things up. He wants us to reach the point where our values—and consequently our actions—mirror His, so the great battle can finally come to an end. It’s the ultimate marketing communication strategy.
Ultimately, God will perform the final clean-up. (I suspect I’ll also help my daughters with theirs.) And everyone—even those who despise Him—will be relieved.
“And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face” (Ezekiel 20:35).
Epilogue: A year has passed, and my daughters now keep their own room clean, whether or not they’re asked. And they’ve taught me a few things about beauty, order, and peace.