The deacon's wife must have suspected my housekeeping endeavors lacked proper priority. As footsteps echoed through the empty parsonage, she turned away from the rest of the search committee. "You'd never believe this place when preacher Thomas and his family moved out. His wife, bless her, was so busy caring for others, I don't think she ever managed to get her housework done. Why, we had to paint every room, and it took us three full days to clean the oven!
She didn't intend it as gossip. It wasn't mean spirited or unkind. The message she offered was clear: Keep the parsonage clean!
Throughout our tenure in the parsonage, and in the years since, I've followed her admonition in my own quirky style. It's not that we're total slobs. Housecleaning has never become a daily routine, much less a spiritual experience. Oh, we keep the laundry done—never mind I don't fold underwear. Frank vacuums once a week with fervor, and I can load a dishwasher with the best of them.
Once a month or so, I get the nesting instinct. I haul out the cleanser and wash every surface with the zeal of a newly ordained missionary. The rest of the time, I'd rather call on a sick friend or write a card to a new widow than dig the popcorn kernels, pencils, and pennies from the crevices of the sofa.
Every drawer a junk drawer
Unfortunately, they'll never hold me up as a shining example of great moments in housekeeping history. Instead, my basic philosophy is: No place for anything and nothing in its place. Every household has a junk drawer. We have six in every bedroom, five in the kitchen, and three in our home office. Every drawer is a junk drawer.
It's downright demoralizing. A good friend, also a preacher's wife, has arranged, labeled, and card-cataloged their book shelves and video library. Hunting for something at our house, however, is truly an adventure. One can never imagine what might fall from a shelf or spring from under a bed. Every day reveals some long forgotten and misplaced treasures.
The surface appearance of our house seems neat and orderly. Should a curious church member drop by to discuss the nursery volunteers' schedule, she'd see a sparkling kitchen, replete with an immaculate stove. That is, as long as she doesn't see the charred crisps of a long forgotten, but enjoyed cherry pie, etched indelibly in the oven's bottom. I'm a hideand-forget housekeeper.
No, I don't suffer from a borderline personality disorder associated with maladapted preachers' wives. Hiding may explain, but not excuse, human inadequacies or failures. Adam and Eve did it in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8). Moses hid after murdering the Egyptian (Ex. 2:12). Sin and its guilt are not the only reasons for hiding. Even King Saul, when God chose him to rule the nation of Israel, responded to the honor by hiding (1 Sam. 10:22). Hiding is a normal, human response.
I may be able to explain why we do it, but I know we cannot camouflage the reality of our lifestyle from the Lord. I cannot conceal my petty resentments and snide remarks and imagine that I am a perfect Christian any more than I can shut the hall closet and pretend that pile of coats, jackets, and hats on the floor isn't really there. As our omniscient Father, God certainly knows all about my sins and clumsy attempts to cloak the shame (Ps. 69:5). I have to own up to those dust bunnies under all the furniture in my life and do some spiritual mopping up.
Some days that commercial slogan, "Calgon, take me away!" can be so inviting. When the going gets too tough, God allows us to hide. He even provides an escape route for faithful Christian (1 Cor. 10:13). Because we are so special (Ps. 17:8), He offers us a chance to regroup in His "secret pavilion" (Ps. 27:5). We can retreat, as even Jesus did (John 8:59), from the strife of everyday life. When we hide in the sheltered sanctuary of His personal chambers, He even allows us to "close the doors" (Ps. 31:20).
Search is always on
"Honey, where'd you put it?" is the bane of my existence. Most of my family members have stopped asking such foolish questions. Instead, they wander aimlessly through the house. With a bewildered expression, they look through Mt. Everest-sized piles of paper and under cushions. Eventually, they uncover whatever it was they were seeking in the first place. Maybe, they find something even better.
My mother—my efficient, immaculate alter-ego—always told me, "Nothing is ever lost, only misplaced." As Christians, this old saying is especially relevant. We have the opportunity to hide in the Word. When we search for the lost keys, combs, and glasses of our spiritual life, we can turn up those spiritual treasures when we need them the most. When we read and meditate upon His words, we find answers that illuminate our paths (Ps. 119:105).
I doubt that I'll ever totally reform my hide-and-forget style of living. I'm pretty comfortable after 20 years of married life in this helter-skelter, spontaneous sort of existence. I can usually rationalize my behavior. I simply tell myself: I'm like Mary; I'd rather be at Jesus' feet. That works most of the time. At least it did until the president of the Dorcas Circle came to visit us last week and asked to hang her coat in the hall closet.