About two or three times each year, I have a huge emotional come-apart when I see our kids’ playroom. There’s stomping, pouting, threats, crying, and anger. And that’s just me. I see my kids cower in wide-eyed fear of their mother on a mission.
I feel justified in making this scene because usually only months or weeks before I’ve had a similar come-apart where I get upset because my kids haven’t kept neatness and order among their toys. I spend the better part of an hour making passive-agressive threats that maybe we don’t need to buy anymore toys/we will make a donation to charity in my kids’ names in lieu of getting them Christmas gifts/ that none of us deserves anymore stuff.
I fume. They usually cry. I rattle off my frustrations that we just went through this whole rigmarole only months before.
“Remember when we just cleaned this room?”
“Remember how we just organized every LEGO, every Play Mobil figure, every American Girl doll accessory, every book, every piece of the money set, every Li’l Woodzeez, every accessory from the doll house? Remember kids? Remember? See all of these bins and baskets? Why is this room in a state of chaos? Don’t you care about your things? Why aren’t you taking care of them?”
Because I’m basically coming unglued at this point, my husband arrives on the scene wondering how the environment of our calm and loving home has quickly escalated to a scene where Mom likely needs a straight jacket.
This was just the backdrop of our weekend. I ordered my husband to bring his shop-vac upstairs to the playroom so I could remove about 17,736 pieces of cut up Hawaiian grass skirt that littered the floor. My sweet girls were upstairs crying and frantically trying to get up all of the picnic and camping Play Mobil pieces that were strewn about the floor. When the shop-vac comes out, they know, all bets are off. I don’t discriminate with the toys and bits in my
warpath way. The same is true with empty trash bags. My children know there’s about to be a mass exodus via the trash bin and a sizable Goodwill donation.
As I began to justify my anger to my shop-vac wielding husband, I began making some pretty broad generalizations.
“They are too old to let their stuff get like this…”
“I’m so tired of making a plan and place for everything up here and then no one keeps it neat…”
“I think we need to rethink our birthday and Christmas purchases this year…”
“I’m sick of this mess. I’m ready to get rid of every single toy in this bonus room…”
My husband let me vent for a hot minute and then he said, “You know, no one likes you when you get like this.” He has been party to many an over-reaction during our marriage. He essentially told me to take-it-down-a-notch and to put into perspective my hysterical, aggrandized rant!
He then reminded me that I was the one giving my blessing to countless Amazon orders and spending-paloozas at Target and Learning Express where our kids’ earned “spend” portion of their allowance burns a hole right through their pockets.
The next few hours played out like usual. I began to cool off. My kids were obedient little helpers and cleaned out and cleaned up the playroom. We all apologized and made promises. I promised to take my emotions down a few decibels and the kids promised to be better stewards of their belongings. Our intentions were honest and sincere.
On the surface I would tell you that I have these episodes of major overreaction because I am tired or overwhelmed. Maybe I feel out of control in other parts of my life, but darn it, I can keep order in our house. And that includes the play room.
On a much deeper, soul-level, I would tell you that fatigue and frustration aren’t at the center of my ugliness at all. It’s much further below the surface than meets the eye.
It took me a few days of consideration and some heart-felt apologies and talks with my family, but I realized that my afternoon of an epic, hysterical hissy fit was the by-product of a sinful heart. It was the manifestation of my sinful heart.
As a mother I often get a little too self-righteous parenting, and if I’m honest, bossing, my kids into submission. I think I can manage them into a disciplined life. I believe the lie that if I just set up enough bins and baskets, chore charts, to-do lists, and schedules that my kids will become happy, productive citizens as they grow up. I believe the lie that their behaviors, choices, and actions are a direct reflection of a false perfection that I, too, am somehow trying to attain.
A messy playroom becomes a metaphor for my messy life and crowded, mucky heart. And just as I like for my kids to contain their mess and keep up an appearance of order and cleanliness, I want my sin and struggles to appear well-organized, neat, and tidy.
My recent outburst gave me pause to contemplate Isaiah 64:6. The Message puts it aptly: “We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease stained rags. We dry up like autumn leaves — sin-dried, we’re blown off like the wind.”
I praise God that there is a solution for my sin. It doesn’t come by way of outbursts and frenzied purging sessions. My Remedy comes in the form of Jesus Christ who forgives me and makes me clean through His grace. In Him, I am a new creation.
1 John 1:8-10 reminds me: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God — make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (The Message)
The next time I feel tempted to unleash my inner-clean freak on my kids, I will be reminded that God doesn’t long for me to be perfect, for my house to be perfect, or for my kids to be perfect. We aren’t about keeping up appearances. I will be reminded that God longs to do a work, first, on my heart. He wants to make me clean from the inside out.