As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Personally, I always wanted a home to keep. I never wanted a career. I have only ever wanted a home and family to tend. I’ve never questioned that it is worthwhile. Whenever I think of it I am flooded with gratitude that God gave me a husband and home so early, so that I didn’t have to find some random job or feel obligated to pursue a career and ended up as a worker for Denver Concierge’s affordable maid service, for example.
So, it’s really rather odd that though I was doing what I always wanted to be doing, it took me so long to get my act together and really own the role of homemaker. Because, it turns out, homemaker means more than being at home and putting meals on the table. It means more than changing diapers and reading books. It does include those things, but it also includes housework.
To make a home, we have to keep a house.
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I enjoy organizing. I hate cleaning. I dislike laundry. I sigh at dishes to be done. I delegate dishwasher duties to children because I feel such things are beneath me. I feel imposed upon by the housework, but I love the house and the family. However, love of the home and hatred of cleaning the home can’t coexist. The two are inconsistent.
I spent a considerable amount of time believing that housekeeping, especially repetitive chores, does not really matter, and had to take a somewhat long and painful route to realize that it does.
I enjoy the feeling of accomplishing something. I prefer to finish projects and cross off tasks. The upkeep that it takes to keep the house running has been, in my mind, a mere unfortunate reality. All things tend toward entropy, and that has been just a little more than I can handle cheerfully. But if I fully recognize and readily admit that people need to eat, sleep, and wear clothes, that they need to read and play and work, that we need to go out and welcome in, then cleaning the house is the initial step toward all those things, not something to get out of the way before moving on to the real work. It is the beginning of reaching those very goals.
Without housework, those things can’t happen. If those things are the goals, then the housework is at least part of the means. If the goals are meaningful, surely the means are as well?
A clean house nurtures our homes
Hospitality was my foot in the door to see the good in housework, for hospitality is hypocritical if it does not begin with our own families.
Here is the crux of the matter. It is no small thing to feed and to clothe and to house and to love the little ones, the least of these, that God has entrusted to our personal care. Their being biologically related does not diminish the value of caring for and serving them. In fact, it merely increases the responsibility, duty, necessity. This is the avenue where the connection between housework and ministry, between duty and calling, between mundane and spiritual. I think it is easy to be gnostic in thinking that such things as grocery shopping and sweeping floors do not really “count” as loving people. But no food in the pantry and sticky, crumb-crusted floors are a real disservice to them, so would not caring for such things be a positive service?
My home exists for God’s glory; it is a place given to me to steward, to be in the very heart of, to serve God’s people. That begins with my family, but doesn’t end there. My home needs to be a place where needs are met, relationships are formed and built, and love is seen in availability.
A not-insignificant benefit of extending hospitality outside the family is the jump-start those invitations give to the motivation to keep up on housecleaning. If people are entering my home multiple times a week, then I am more likely to do things like vacuum and dust. In fact, I think the practice of having people over often has done more for my housekeeping habits than any schedule or book or resolution.
This home and these duties are the starting point of our Christian duty of charity, of love, of caring, of service. For ourselves, for our families, and for our community.
A clean house nurtures our families
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, these begin in the home first before they can extend outside the home. We might call it a menu plan and laundry routine, but if we are caring for God’s least of these — our own little ones entrusted to us — then it is an important and essential ministry.
So, what are some good things about a clean house? What are some reasons we might choose to do our own housework, even if we could afford a maid service? Something beyond being too frugal, too cheap, to do so?
When we teach children to do housework, we encourage our children to see themselves as contributors to the household. And if we want our children to think a clean room, much less a clean house, is valuable, then we ourselves need to think and act like it is valuable.
A clean house grows us personally
Housework is creative, transformation, repetitive work that pictures God’s own.
Housekeeping exemplifies faithfulness and providential, sanctifying care.
By performing these duties, we mirror God’s own work: it is physical and real, it is transformative, it gives grace, it is meticulous and all-encompassing, it is humble and sacrificial service. It is a way given to us to imitate, to symbolize, God’s own work, to image Him, and to be what He created us to do and be.
I used to believe that the inside could be clean without affecting the outside. The outside, I thought, is irrelevant. I am slowly coming around to seeing that what is inside works itself out to the outside. People cleansed by grace should grow into being clean and gracious in all they do and all they are. That is sanctification.
And that includes housework.
I recommend Rachel Jankovic’s articles on Desiring God’s blog about this topic:
- Motherhood as a Mission Field — “At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel.”
- Motherhood is a Calling, and where your children rank — “You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”
- Motherhood is Application:
The days of a busy mother are made up of millions of transformations. Dirty children become clean, the hungry child fed, the tired child sleeping. Almost every task a mother performs in the course of a normal day could be considered a transformation. Disorder to order, dirty clothes to clean, unhappy children to peaceful, empty fridge to full. Every day we fight against disorder, filth, starvation, and lawlessness, and some days we might almost succeed. And then, while we sleep, everything unravels and we start again in the morning — transforming.
This little home-building that we do now connects us both to our origins in Paradise and to our future in the place God is preparing and the feast He is hosting. What we do here and now are little, tiny, foretastes of that fellowship, feast, and rest. That is, it can be and should be, even in small, trivial, and unglamorous ways. Too often, I know, the fellowship and atmosphere I have provided speaks more of a different sort of place than Heaven. But a small outpost of glory, of kingdom come, is what our homes are meant to be.