The other day I was reading from Luke's Gospel about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. The part that has always struck me is that once she is healed "immediately she rose and served them" (Lk 4:39). I picture her getting up and starting to cook, or pouring them another glass of wine, or tidying up the room. This passage struck me especially today for some reason. We are all called to service, but I know that I'm particularly called to the same type of service that Peter's mother-in-law probably rendered that day. Being a stay-at-home-mom I'm called to love my family through cooking and cleaning (among other things, of course). I'm not very good at it. I find it difficult to do much while Isaac is awake because he always has to get into everything and while he naps I'd much rather sit down with a cup of tea and put my feet up than pull out the mop. Anyway, why am I writing this? Well, I suppose I'm reminding myself of the beauty of such service. Service, even in such small things, is good and noble work. It is work that is undervalued in our society.
I am part of a generation that was taught that being a "housewife" is not enough. It may have been good enough for our mothers but we're better than that. This attitude has been very damaging for many women, myself included. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an ultra-conservative traditionalist. Women have more options now and that's great. I just think that the traditional family structure, flawed though it may have been, was in place for a reason. Many women find great fulfillment in being full-time mothers. I mean, how many women really want to leave their kids to be raised by strangers eight hours a day? We want to be with our children, we want beautiful homes, yet we feel that if that's "all" we do we're selling ourselves short.
What a pack of lies. Looking after a home and children is a full-time job (hey, if I didn't do it I would have to pay someone to, right?). Heck, it's way more than a full-time job. It's give every ounce of yourself 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And then, when you've already done that, it's give some more because it's 3 am and the baby is teething.
Anyway, there have been many things written in defense of the whole wife/mother gig and that's not really what I intended this post to be about.
Awhile ago we were at a friend's wedding and one of the readings was about what it means to be a good wife. Ok, so the quotation that I can find is: "Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, so is the beauty of the good wife in her well-ordered home" (Sirach 26:16 RSV). But it must have been a different translation at the wedding because I remember it talking about the "radiance" of her home. I also remember being very humbled by that reading. When's the last time my home has been radiant? Probably never. Substitute "grimy" and "chaotic" for "radiant" and "well-ordered" and you've got a better idea of what kind of house we live in. I try not to be too hard on myself for this kind of thing. After all, in order for me to keep Isaac occupied while I clean I have to let him empty out the pots and pans cupboards. It's hard to tell that I've just been cleaning when there are pots and pans all over the floor. Also, sometimes I can get caught up in the details and forget the bigger picture: I think the greater point of this Scripture passage is that a wife should make her home a welcoming place. It should be a peaceful, loving environment that family members look forward to coming home to every evening. There's much more to that than order and cleanliness.
BUT, before I let myself off the hook completely--there is something to be said for order and cleanliness. In fact, there's a lot to be said. Keeping a clean home is part of my calling right now so it should be a form of prayer for me. If I tidy up after dinner out of love for my family with cheerful spirit of sacrifice I'm going a long way toward making my home radiant. So I guess I'm finally coming to the point of this rambling post: (with God's grace) I can do better. I can start each day with the resolution of making the most of it. I can patiently tidy up after my never ending whirlwind Isaac. I can make an extra effort and offer up those tasks that I find less than thrilling. And I can bend my creative energies toward making my home more beautiful. Lord, help me! I better print this out and tack it up somewhere that I'll see it everyday. Now, maybe I should go do some cleaning...