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.