Household Management! · Spiritual Musings

The Idol of the Ideal

The ideal body. The ideal day. The ideal home. The ideal children. The ideal husband. The ideal me. Most of have some image of what our ideals are. I know I have a fantasy me and she is doing it all. Fantasy me is a composite of people whom I admire and respect. Fantasy Laurie bakes her own bread, grows all of her own fruits and vegetables, makes clothing, and my favorite of fantasy domestic skills, cans food for the winter. Her house is clean, her hair is done, and in fact she is wearing pearls, dress, and heels everyday. She is a combination of Elisabeth Elliot, Martha Stewart, and June Cleaver. Right now while the real me (wearing faded black pants and army green top, hair wadded up in a scrunchy)  is being interrupted from blogging because my one son is driving the other son crazy with the clicking of his pen, fantasy me is making a breakfast of eggs, bacon, waffles, and freshly squeezed orange juice (from the tree we planted) while her children read the Bible quietly.  It is so funny really. A friend and I always get a kick out of saying what the fantasy me (or her) is doing when something in real life is less than ideal.

Sometimes what people call perfectionism can be a cluster of all kinds of sins. It can be pride, wanting to be perfect and have everything go perfectly just like…like God. It can be legalism, trying to rest in my performance rather than in Christ’s finished work on my behalf (exhausting, I’m sure!). It can also be idolatry of a whole bunch of things: order, control, and the ideal. I am not a perfectionist. I think it is funny that most of the people commenting on these posts have the opposite problem I do. My threshold for living in disarray is a bit higher than others who are reading. (isn’t that a nice way of saying I’m lazy and self-indulgent, and housework just ain’t my thing :)!)  Seriously though, sometimes the messiest houses are the result of idolizing the ideal. If it can’t be perfect, why bother! 

Why is the ideal a dangerous idol? Idolizing the ideal can result in misplaced priorities. Cleaning, order, and that rush from getting something accomplished can become more important than people around us. Idolizing the ideal can result in exhaustion. You can always do more. You can always do better. Idolizing the ideal can result in serious disorder and chaos if you don’t bother trying because it can’t be perfect.

If you have small children, the ideal with regards to home and home management is  a futile pursuit. All walls painted the latest color, just might not happen (at least not without crayon touches, nicks, scratches, and fingerprints – and aren’t we all grateful to God for the magic eraser?!).  All laundry being finished is not possible. Organizing the closet without interruption even during the nap time is probably not going to happen. (as an aside, did you ever notice that when you really want to do something during nappy time – like sleep, clean, or make a phone call – that’s the one time they don’t sleep?) The inability to reach the ideal is God’s kindness to us. If we were able to attain the ideal, we would be self-sufficient and proud, wouldn’t we?  This is not the season to pursue the ideal with regards to home management. Is there a season that is?

I hope to post later about the other hindrances the “less inclined to cleaning” among us face in regards to glorifying God through home management.

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11 thoughts on “The Idol of the Ideal

  1. I think your fantasy Laurie and my fantasy Briana would always be competing at the nearest Farm Festival with our home grown produce. I’m glad the real Laurie and real Briana get to be buddies and that you are helping me laugh at all the ways I woefully fall short of my ideals.

  2. Funny, I noticed the same thing about the commenters with the exception of one: me! What’s up with that? I go through phases of wanting things spotless, but I am more like you in my “tolerance for disarray.” Glad you’ll be addressing our “hindrances.” Missed you at the corn maze today. Kathleen thought you were coming. Fantasy Canning Girl would’ve been drooling today.

  3. Hi Zo. missed you too. Fantasy me was actually there with homemade cupcakes for the children and freshly baked pumpkin bread for each mom. ;)Seriously though, I thought it was going to rain any minute and was grateful for the opportunity to get ready for a busy end-of-the-week. 🙂

  4. Laurie you’ve pegged me to a tee! Zoanna, sorry I didn’t comment before. I was to intimidated by all the cleanies! All my friends here are that way and I feel like I don’t fit in when the conversation steers toward housekeeping skills.

    A year and a half ago, I was on bed rest for 6 months while pregnant with my third. I had the chance to watch from the couch while the “housecleaner”, my husband, and my friends all cleaned for me. God used that time to redirect the way I think about cleaning and home management. I literally am starting to “see” the clutter and laundry etc. with new eyes.

    However, this week has been particulary trying. Thank you, so much for writing this. I see that while I used to live with an ideal and do nothing, this week I have been trying to be perfect and it’s not working! (Wonder why?!) Yesterday, after some tearful crying out to God, I felt led to let drop my ideal school day so that I could better help my husband through a tough month at work by having a clean house, and a cheerful wife to come home to. It was really hard to admit that I couldn’t do it all.

    Thank you for putting words to my struggling thoughts on this issue. And thank you for pointing me yet again to the all sufficient Christ who is perfect. I know God is working in my heart even though it is painful. Rooting out pride is ongoing work!

  5. Christina and Zoanna I am right there with ya…I only try to clean up when I know someone is coming over…otherwise it is zoo central here!!! 🙂

  6. No need to feel intimidated by “cleanies.” I know I wish I was more like ya’ll, free spirited and so forth! Ready to drop what I’m doing on a moment’s notice and concentrate on people over my tasks without stressing about it! I admire people more like that, quite frankly.

    The funny thing is I NEVER notice other people’s houses, whether they’re organized or not, doesn’t really make an impression on me. The homes that make an impression on me are laid back ones full of warmth, with kids running around, messy kitchens and good conversations. I try to remind myself of that when I wish I got more done when someone comes over. That it ultimately doesn’t matter. It matters most how I treat people.

    Great discussion going here, Laurie.

  7. WOW! Look at all of the closet “less inclined to clean”. Of which I am the Queen. Seriously I have come away from some post so condemed! I feel as if I will never get “it”! Truly I would much rather spend the day with a friend or one of my children or surprise Michael at work with lunch than stay home and clean. I must confess I do do that too often so my house is not by any standards a show piece. I am looking forward to your next post Laurie! Thanks for loving me even in my filth! LOL

  8. I think I could challenge y’all on the title of Queen of the Unclean! You know when I posted those pics of my house it was a freak five minutes before it all got tore up again.

    Thanks for your encouragement, Laurie. And ladies, for your honesty. As a friend of ours constantly says, “There’s grace to change.” I hope that means there’s hope for me and my home sweet hovel. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the reminder, this is me. And I have quickly had to let go of my idol of the ideal having three children under four! I’m really enjoying these post, wish I could’ve been there for your talk! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the blog world!

  10. wow. I need to stop reading these posts because I see way too much sin when I do. Ignorance is truly bliss! Oh well. I know it pleases the Lord way more when I love my home for His glory and not because I want to meet some fantasy expectation of a perfect wife and mom.

    Thanks for sharing your insights so well, Laurie and for dumbing it down enough for me to benefit from it. 🙂

    I love having you as a sister-in-law!

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