We've always been good on-the-go, haven't we? Grocery trips and Sonic runs—these have been our saving grace many times.
Outside our house, the world seems to have order. Peanut butter jars lined up on grocery store shelves, neatly cut grass, stamps sold in perfect little booklets. I've always loved the precise beauty of a sheet of stamps.
But inside our house, nothing is lined up. You and I both make sure of that. (Dad helps some, too.)
Because once we get home from the grocery store, and I try to put the food away while you grab at my legs, I often find myself longing to get out again, back to the orderly place. Because usually I’ve forgotten a crucial ingredient, or I bought too much or too little, or it isn't very healthy, or it was too expensive, or maybe it was all the right things but then I burned it anyway or you threw it all on the ground. At our house, often everyone is loud, and the piles of laundry and toys and dishes seem like they're expanding, inching closer to us, conquering another square foot every few minutes. I fear the chaos will eventually swallow us up, and we'll tumble into a black hole of madness, never finding sure footing again.
So sometimes it feels easier to get out. To leave the bloated mess to devour us another day, to go somewhere where we can pretend to be calm, a place where I can carry a list and feel accomplished, where you can be distracted by crackers or at least fall asleep in the car.
Going is good—but sometimes I make us go because I’m not brave or strong enough to stay. Staying requires a different set of muscles entirely. Staying is hard, especially for people like us who naturally perk up around new scenery.
But here’s a truth that I’m learning about these too-familiar walls, babies. God is here. Right here, in our house. It’s not too messy for him, and it’s not too loud for him. He knows that it’s our mess, and it’s our loud, and he likes us. He likes to stay with us. He’s good at it.
God goes with us, too, but I’m realizing that there’s something particularly beautiful about seeing him in the staying, in the overly familiar, in the mundane.
My brain rails against this idea, and I often find myself dreaming of the going—doing important work, teaching with conviction things that matter, and I start to piece together the words, but you're upset again, and the words slip away. Good words have never been much match for your best word: "mama." And there’s something in the tone of your voice that God put there to remind me that I’m already doing important work. Beautiful, staying work, work that requires different muscles. Hanging with you, helping you learn things, comforting and feeding and loving you—these are millions of tiny steps that eventually complete a marathon. My greatest victory. My best work.
Babies, remember what your mama is learning about God—that he doesn’t just live at the finish line. He fills up every square inch of the path and the lungs inside your chest. He doesn’t just live in the crises and big joys. He fills up the Thursdays and the nap times and the no-one-napped times. He doesn’t just live in the orderly place of Bible study and highlighters and coffee. He fills up the laundry room and the coat closet and your mama’s heart. I know that because sometimes he holds my hands when I pause over the sink of dishes, because I’m overwhelmed, and he’s trying to make me rest.
It’s at the sink that the words of Genesis 28:16 leap into my mind: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."
Oh, babies, this kitchen floor is holy ground, too. Sometimes it’s mopped and sometimes it’s covered in rejected grapes and spilled flour, but it is holy nonetheless.
Alongside the blocks and sticky counters, God has things to teach us. So let’s stay in this messy house together a little more. Maybe it’ll get clean today, or maybe it won’t. But God is not some grumpy houseguest. He’s here for the long haul—steady, constant, unchanging, and never ever intimidated by our mess.
Babies, don’t let me lament the dirty house or fret too much over its noise. That makes it seem like I don’t love this place, but I certainly do. I love this messy house because God is here, and because you’re here, and I really like you. I want our house to be the place where you learn what God’s like, so I’m praying that God will teach me to be like him: steady, fearless in the face of mess, constant in the tumult.
In this messy place, you are safe to be a mess. Here’s you’ll find a soft place to land when the world prickles. Here you'll always find a heart that loves you, arms ready to pull you in. In this loud place, you can yell or cry or laugh, and you will be heard. Here you’ll always find someone to brush your hair back and sing our song: “So goodnight, my someone, goodnight.”
Babies, what a good God we serve that he would choose to answer prayers in our kitchen. To provide wisdom at our coffee table. To grant comfort as we rock together in that glider.
He fills this house, and he makes it a place worth staying.
“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23-24