Sunday, June 14, 2009
the long defeat
I like laundry. I like gathering all the cast-off T-shirts and towels and socks from each room of the house, sorting them into piles, and tossing them in the washer. I like dumping a pile of clean clothes on the bed and turning it into a half-dozen neatly folded stacks. Doing laundry brings order out of chaos, and I like that.
The thing about laundry is that it never ends. No matter how much I do today, there will be more tomorrow. You can never do it 'once and for all.' In that sense, laundry helps me temper the part of my personality that is overly task-oriented, the part of me that just wants to check everything off the list and get it all done. Laundry defies my best attempts at being finished.
And I need to be defied like that every day. I need to be reminded that I am not finished -- and I am not called to live my life frantically attempting to fix that. Every day, every day, I need to do the daily work of letting God bring order out of my chaos. Will the chaos be back tomorrow? Yep. Does that make today's work any less significant? Not at all.
In Sara Groves' song, The Long Defeat, she sings: I have joined the long defeat / that falling set in motion / and all my strength and energy / are raindrops in the ocean. At first this might sound depressing or bleak, but there is an undercurrent of passion and faithfulness. There is a sense of admitting our frailty, admitting that we won't fix everything, admitting that, in this age, we won't win once-and-for-all our battle against brokenness. And yet we refuse to be paralyzed by that reality.
Tomorrow there will be more dirty clothes, but today we can throw the whites in the washer, fold the sheets, put away the dish towels, and fight our daily fight.
[For a brilliant comparison between laundry and liturgy, check out The Quotidian Mysteries, by Kathleen Norris.]