“The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish woman pulls it down with her hands.”
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
I read Proverbs 14 today, and these two verses stuck out to me. I’m not sure if the application I’m about to draw is exactly right, and if I’m really off biblically please correct me. But this is what it made me think about this morning as I read these and as I thought about some things that happened around here yesterday and a conversation I had.
I want to be the woman who builds her house, not the foolish woman who pulls it down with my hands. I’ve talked and thought and prayed about this before, and I am sure it will be an ongoing theme in the process of sanctification to grow in wisdom. Here’s where I am at the moment on this in my own life.
I like orderliness. I like my home to be neat and clean – not like a showplace and unlivable, but neat and orderly. I function so much better that way. I have children. They are not, by nature very orderly people. Especially my most middle of middle children. He does not seem to be a detail kind of guy. He does not seem to have grasped the concept of “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” For him, things pretty much live wherever they fall at any given moment. Which, of course, leads to much frustration when he cannot find something he needs RIGHT NOW, or when I have to see the chaos that is his room, or any other room in which he spends time, for that matter.
I have expended no small amount of energy trying to motivate this child to learn a little more orderliness. I have failed, often, to stay on top of it and encourage him to clean up the mess each day so it doesn’t get out of hand. Laziness and exhaustion and distractedness on my part are much to blame for the times when I fail to be diligent in teaching this skill, I confess it.
Recently, the state of his room had become such that we had told him that if he could not get it cleaned up, I would go in there and do it (for the third time since we’ve lived here, mind you and we’ve only been here about 7 months), and the consequence would be that I’d be taking a lot of things out of there – LEGOs!! Yesterday was that day. It started well. I needed to go through his clothes, anyway, and had finished going through his brother’s clothes the day before, so I had hand-me-downs that needed a home in M’s room. I spent the morning working on clothes. My mood decayed as the morning wore on, however, when I found piles of dirty clothes in really strange places and clean clothes that should have been put away in even stranger places, and ear plugs and swim goggles in very strange places – this is the boy who could not find any ear plugs or swim goggles the other day. And yet I found several pairs in his underwear drawer – along with all kinds of things that also didn’t belong there, but the underwear was somewhere else entirely. Enough on that. Suffice it to say that by the time I came downstairs for a break I was feeling a little frazzled, because sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a wall. I know the kids know better than this, and I get a little tired of doing the same thing over and over and feeling like I'm not making any progress. And then I saw the mess that three kids had made in the living room. My tone was not very nice or kind, I must confess.
So, I took a deep breath. Commissioned the kids to straighten up the living room, took them to the grocery store to get the ingredients for lunch and a special treat. After lunch we went outside and made ice cream in a bag and enjoyed the fun of doing something different and eating the fruit of our labor afterwards. It took my hands a long time to thaw, by the way. But it was yummy.
After that little break, I had calmed down and was ready to finish my assault on the chaotic room upstairs. It didn’t take me all that terribly much longer. I also apologized to the kids for letting my frustration dictate my attitude with them in the morning.
Where am I going with this? I did a lot of complaining over the past couple of days about how messy our house is. When I read Proverbs 14:4 this morning, I got to thinking that, sure, cleanliness is important. But the mess is also a byproduct of having these kids around in the first place. And I am very thankful that I do have them around. I need to do a better job of training them in the responsibilities of living together in the home, this has become obvious to me. But, I don’t want to do it in a way that tears down our house. I don’t want their memories to be a mom who yelled a lot, was mad and frustrated a lot, and cared more about a clean house than she did about interacting with them and enjoying them. There has to be a balance. I need to find the balance that will work better in our home. There are some changes I can be making to be wiser about building up the house and not tearing it down by letting things go so long that I’m frustrated and taking it out on the family.
Anyway, that’s what I got to thinking about this morning as I read Proverbs.