Life is a messy process, literally. There is always something to put in the washing machine. A new piece of mail arrives every day. I have no idea where all the dust comes from, but sometimes someone in the house sweeps it up or sucks it up in a vacuum cleaner. The dishes are never done. If so, I immediately feel the need for a glass of water and leave the glass in the sink. Maybe it reassures me because the kitchen is always clean, but there is a sign of life.
One of the most valuable tools available to manage this messy process is routine. Without routines, we spend so much energy on things that need to be done (or they will overwhelm us) that we lose focus. The messes continue to arrive daily; they constantly need to be controlled.
Life gives us much more than laundry, dust and dishes. There is illness, aging, misunderstandings. There are people who don’t do their part because they don’t want to or can’t. There are people who are unaware of the problems their behavior is causing to others. This includes all of us on some level. The damage keeps coming at us – sometimes more, sometimes less – and it never stops.
The principles that help us manage laundry, dust and dishes are the same ones that also help us manage other aspects of our lives. For example, imagine that every time the laundry needed to be done, we had to go buy soap. Or imagine having to stir up dust without using a broom or vacuum cleaner. We naturally understand that to deal with the physical disorders of life, we need the proper equipment. We (usually) don’t wait for a lot of damage because we know it’s coming. We prepare things in advance so that the expected does not turn into a crisis.
The same is true of life in general. There are things we know are going to happen and we have time to prepare for them. This will help us deal with times when the unexpected happens or something breaks. Understanding aging and life’s transitions, and then preparing for them, makes these times less stressful.
It’s good to keep our lives as full of other people as possible. Being in a community is good for us; we learn a lot from each other. We accomplish so much more together than alone. But it’s also like having a house full of family or guests. Things that need to be cleaned seem to increase exponentially. It is both energizing and exhausting.
Proper routines and tools are essential. This is why we have fixed meeting times. Our regular gathering times in churches, homes, and civic organizations help establish our weekly routines. They are predictable and integrated into our lives. These are some of the mundane tools we use to keep our lives in order.
We also have spiritual tools. It’s the durable items that help us keep life in perspective. In the New Testament, housekeeping imagery may come to mind with the word “cleansed.” In II Peter 1:5-9, the apostle encourages us by writing: “Strive to add goodness to your faith, and knowledge to goodness; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to piety, mutual affection; and mutual affection, love. If you possess these qualities more and more, they will prevent you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he who does not have them is myopic and blind, forgetting that he has been purified from his past sins. (NAV).
It takes effort to add these things to our lives. But, it also takes effort to go to the store or keep the house livable. We take care of what is important to us using routines. It is the same spiritually. We need spiritual routines in our lives to build strength and endurance. We need them to deal with the daily mess life throws at us. All the qualities that Peter offers us will have the effect of cleaning things up before they get out of hand. They’ll keep us focused and grounded on the important things, preventing a buildup of daily messes. We keep moving. The dishes are never done.