One of my most acute memories of my grandmother is watching her tiny frame lug a too-big laundry basket up the stairs from her basement laundry closet to the den where she ironed my grandfather’s work clothes. What I love about this memory is the simplicity of the task. She didn’t have a fancy HE washer or a spacious laundry room with all the amenities. She hauled her skinny rear up and down those stairs. She unhooked the ironing board from the back of the den door (from the hanging contraption that clattered and banged every time the door was carelessly thrust upon), plugged in her iron, got out her spray starch, and did her job– with her task turned toward the television so she could watch her “stories,” of course. And now, every time I shake my starch can and posture over my ironing board, which isn’t all that often, I can’t help but think of her, though I think of her often. And I think of the vast chasm between our generations. How she was disciplined in her chores, worked without complaint, maintained order and peace in her home. She attended to mending garments, darning socks, changing bed linens– weekly, making three square meals– daily. And I think about myself, how we women today don’t have time for these menial tasks. We are busy. We order take-out, toss out the shirt that is missing one button, buy wrinkle-free clothes, and wrinkle our noses at the monotonous activity of the homemaker.
But how I desire to be more home oriented. To find a simple joy in these tasks. To serve my Lord and my family, not out of obligation but with a fresh-like-clean-laundry zeal. To remind myself of this great gift of being a wife and a mother. And when I tuck in my kids at night, and I finally, for the first time that day, look my husband in the eyes, I want to reflect on the day and know I honored them. At the end of the day I want to be able to say I embraced it. All of it: the ironing of laundry, the tying of shoes, the wiping of tears. That I didn’t flake out on anything out of laziness or boredom; that I didn’t do any of it begrudgingly, but with all my might, like my Grammy taught me.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a).
Neither she nor I knew it at the time (I was ten and visiting with her was a sanctuary feeling, often an escape from a chaotic home life), how strong an example to me she was of a woman who was diligent in bringing order from chaos. She fulfilled the cultural mandate laid out in Scripture, even though I don’t believe she ever knew explicitly what that was (Genesis 1:28). Even when things in our family seemed to be hurtling out of orbit, my grandmother remained steady, constant. She just kept picking it all up, like a worker ant – no matter how many times that kid scuffs over the ant hole, she keeps building.
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down (Proverbs 14:1).
But it’s not just the little ant that glorifies God in the task of bringing order from chaos. No, as intellectual beings made in the image of God, we are charged with this task daily. And we would do well to recognize the stewarding of this task as a gift. That God would bestow on us such creativity and responsibility– the very same attributes he exercised in the greatest task of bringing order from chaos that we have ever known: the creation of the world. Further, that he would entrust the care of his creation to us. And, unlike the ant who is an architect out of compulsion, not creativity nor intellect, we get to choose how we go about the business of bringing order, and we are responsible for those choices. Moreover, we are responsible to God for them. He calls us to it. He requires stewardship over it. And he trusts us with it. That is quite something to wrap our minds around.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it(Genesis 2:15).
Since the initial task of bringing order from chaos came before the Fall, it can only be concluded that this work was intended by God to be a creative and fulfilling exercise. If you’ve ever raked your bare hands through rich soil, inhaled the fragrant blooms of your labor, or sunk your teeth into a fresh picked tomato you grew from seed you might be able to imagine how God intended the work to feel. It. was. good. However, the consequences of the Fall have made this task difficult, wearisome, and frustrating. Nevertheless, we are called to press on, for God’s own glory and for our own good.
I’m thankful to those who have taught me a bit about all of this “order from chaos business.” Along with this memory of my grandmother that I reflect upon with every nagging step down to my own basement laundry room, there are pages to which I turn regularly for encouragement when I’m feeling weak and weary. Read them. You will surely be blessed. And, who knows, maybe they’ll encourage you to tackle that project you’ve been neglecting. Godspeed sweet sister.