Most parents of young children are familiar with survival mode, that level of existence in which it takes everything we have just to put food in front of our families and keep everyone in reasonably clean clothing.
Sometimes it is brought on by illness or major life events. Sometimes it is too many play rehearsals and soccer practices and school assemblies all piled up in a couple of weeks that force us into this other way of living…eating dinner in our cars as we run from one place to another, pulling socks out of the hamper until we find some that go together (or wearing socks that don’t match), ignoring the crumbs on the floor and the toothpaste in the sink because there just isn’t time or energy to clean properly.
Survival mode is about coping, doing the least we can tolerate and letting the rest go.
Survival isn’t about making things sparkling clean…except when it is.
As a recovering perfectionist, I have relaxed my standards for what constitutes a clean house quite a bit in recent years. It’s a necessary process. As more children have joined our family and as we have begun homeschooling here, things are often less clean than I’d like them to be. My priorities have shifted. We live in our house a lot, and it looks like a house where people live and move and make messes and sometimes forget to clean them up.
Sometimes, though, when things start feeling ragged, I just need to clean something until it shines.
A few weeks ago, I realized that no one had cleaned my bathtub in months.
This sudden realization made it all clear. We’ve been in survival mode for quite a while. Just after my miscarriage in October, I ran a marathon. I’d spent months training, and some household chores had fallen by the wayside. A few weeks later, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Advent was close on its heels, together with preparations for Christmas and New Year’s.
Between the holidays and the emotional highs and lows of experiencing the creation of life and then losing it so soon, I just couldn’t keep up with everything.
Our bathtub seemed like a low priority. The children’s bathroom was clean, because guests use it, too, but the one in our bedroom was neglected. The layers of film and dust that build up over several months aren’t very noticeable at first, but after a while, things start to look dingy. I had gotten so used to it that I didn’t really notice any more.
I’ve been thinking lately about Easter, about how it can really change us if we let it. We have the gift of the Easter season: not just a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but fifty of them. Fifty days filled with alleluias, brimming with the surge of new life and the knowledge that death isn’t forever, that survival mode is temporary, that there is always hope for a new beginning.
We Christians are not just people who celebrate Easter. We are an Easter people. Jesus resurrection is what gave birth to our faith. It defines us. It is who we are. Survival mode may be necessary from time to time, but as new creations in Christ, we can’t allow it to become permanent. We are called to new life, to abundance, to witness during this season to the miracle of Christ’s victory over death.
Christ is still risen, even a few weeks after we joyfully proclaimed it with our alleluias.
Our home still bears the marks of our celebrations of Easter. The garland of ribbons we always hang for feast days still decorates the ceiling. (My daughters dash into the kitchen first thing every day looking for those ribbons, then excitedly announce, “It’s still Easter!”) A painting of spring flowers graces the wall, fresh flowers are on the kitchen table, random plastic Easter eggs cluster under furniture where the children keep hiding them.
I’m brimming with new life, too, with a new baby on the way later this summer. Somehow, though, my Easter alleluia got buried in the dust of survival mode.
Today, I just want to scrub off the dirty film that is covering everything and begin anew.
It is still Easter. Right now, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than cleaning these faucets until they sparkle.
Copyright 2014, Abbey Dupuy