The day after I deep-clean has historically been a very rough one.
I cringe as I stand watching my hard, sweaty work completely UNRAVEL before my very eyes. In most cases I have to step outside and practice deep-breathing techniques as a coping mechanism. Today I stood by my daughter Penelope’s high chair literally trying to catch her crumbs as her windmill arms swung and flung, my upper back starting to ache as I envisioned myself cleaning the floor for a third time in a few short hours.
The thing that has given me the most trouble in my job as a stay-at-home mom is . . . well, how shall we put it . . . so much of it is a chasing after the wind.
You wash and fold clothes, only for them to get stained again.
You scrub the floor, only to await the destruction following the next meal.
You sweep out the garage, only for the leaves to mockingly blow in again.
You empty the trash cans, only to watch them quickly overflow.
You bathe children, only to watch them take out their shiny pigtails and get their curls in the gravy.
You vacuum the steps (this is a hard one, let’s just be honest), only to watch the kids tromp in dead leaves clinging to their socks.
Okay, okay, you get the picture.
I sat down today as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song played in the background and really listened to the words. I thought about the spider straining—sweating, perhaps—as she climbed the infamous waterspout. Only God knows how long it took her. And, to what avail? Only for the rain to come and wash her down right to the place she started. I could feel myself resonating deeply with her struggle. My train of thought was only interrupted when my two-year-old tugged on my arm and told me that she pooped in her (just changed) diaper. Sigh.
Please, God, tell us . . . Are we really doing anything of significance?
Maybe this struggle is not just for mothers. Maybe this is a struggle for all of humanity. Maybe we have it ingrained deeply in our hearts, this desire to live for something that truly matters. Something greater than a perfectly clean house. Something greater than a successful job that comes with notoriety.
The author of Ecclesiastes struggled so deeply with this feeling of “chasing after the wind” that you would almost think he was a stay-at-home mom. Or a spider.
For the first few chapters, the author engages in a thought experiment, analyzing things deeply from the vantage point of “under the sun.” What is the point of life apart from God? Vanity of vanities . . . All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3, ESV) Good question, Solomon! Keep going, please . . .
Initially the author finds something good (like wisdom, pleasure, money, and hard work), but as he presses into it, asking too much of it, eventually it breaks.
Wisdom. Pleasure. Money. A clean house. They are good gifts, and we should recognize and enjoy them as such. But when we look to these things to bring us the satisfaction that we long for, we are barking up the wrong waterspout (sorry, couldn’t resist).
This book of the Bible encourages us not to store up our treasures here on this earth. This earth as we know it will fade. There is something greater, something more significant—something of more lasting value that we are to live for.
Listen to the last chapter of Ecclesiastes:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV)
What are his commandments, you ask? Well, Jesus sums them all up this way: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27, ESV)
Love God. Love people.
Pretty simple, huh?
We are created for God and to live for His purposes. Don’t let all the other things distract you. Enjoy them as gifts. Use them as vehicles for greater service to others.
So . . . clean your house. Take a picture of it if you must. Then, smile, and invite the neighbor kids over, and let it go, and love, and laugh, and remember what’s important, and remind yourself of what’s not, and get on your knees because you’ll forget it pretty quickly, and clean it all again three hours later, and pray the whole time because if you’re focused on the earthly instead of the heavenly, it’s no fun, I’m just gonna warn you . . .
And remember to press hard into God. He is the only One who can carry the weight of our expectations and hopes and dreams and desires. He’s the only One who won’t break. Or decay. Or fade.
Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife, writer, and mom to four girls. She and her husband Colby, former IMB missionaries to Iceland, serve at Pillar Church in Dumfries, Virginia. Adapted from a blog post at www.anniebrogan.com.