Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm Not Afraid of Drive-by Visits Anymore. Glory be!

I think I've made one of the best decisions of my life by hiring a cleaning service. Yup, I've got hired help around here, and it's made all the difference. I feel like I'm getting my house back, and as a result, I'll be entertaining a lot more, which is one of life's simple pleasures for me.

What has surprised me is how powerful it has been knowing that they'll be back in two weeks' time. First, I'm willing to go crazy in the kitchen, knowing that it'll be spotless again in just two weeks. But it also causes me to keep my whole house tidier--I think part of that comes from the fact that I'm paying for the service, and the belief that I should benefit from it in the weeks where they're not here. Finally, the fact that they are coming causes me to tidy up all the clutter the night before they come, so it forces me to stay on top of the craziness. And best of all, I'm slowly getting every room of my house back, those rooms that have turned into dumping grounds for all the stuff without a home. It's also gotten me fired up to finish the projects that have been lingering over my head. I finally put up some curtains in my bedroom that I bought about six months ago, and it's completely changed the feel of my room, for the better.

It's also an expression of God's grace in my life. I'm beginning to embrace the truth that every good thing that happens in our lives is the result of God's grace. Of course I've always believed that in theory. But when I look around my house and see that it's tidy, and realize that last night, after a huge cooking adventure, I didn't leave my house until all the dirty dishes were running in the dishwasher, it's somewhat remarkable. For those who know my kitchen, (Torey, Alison....), they'd say it's miraculous. (Am I right, or am I right?)

As I sat last night with Torey and Dave over, I was doing something that I enjoy immensely: cooking for other people. As Dave said, my story was sort of a Greek tragedy: I had a passion, and skills to cook up a storm and a comfortable house to have people over, but my untidy ways were keeping me from doing it. He jokingly said that my house was my prison. There's a lot of truth to that, but now, with the help of these cleaning people, I'm ready and raring to go with cooking and having people over. And that, my friends, is the grace of God.

One of my favorite lines of Thomas Merton is this one: "Real self-conquest is the conquest of ourselves not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit. Self-conquest is really self-surrender." In order to do this, Merton says that "we have to have enough mastery of ourselves to renounce our own will into the hands of Christ--so that He may conquer what we cannot reach by our own efforts."

My friends and family can attest to the truth that as far as clutter goes, I've never been able to overcome that millstone through my own efforts. My prayer of late has been more than anything, "Please, dear Jesus." That's a distillation of pretty much all I need to ask Him. I know that God knows my needs more profoundly than I do, and I'm convinced that this tidy house of mine is an answer to a prayer that I really didn't utter. My life has changed because of it, and every time I come home to a tidy house, I'll know it's only by the grace of God, literally.

I'm going to approach losing weight the same way. Only by the grace of God will I lose weight and keep it off. My conquest of the waistline will only be achieved when I surrender it all to God and tell Him that I can't do it without Him, that I'm powerless to eat less, or exercise more, or to make any positive changes unless He showers me with the grace to do so.

I think that's helping me glimpse what the "peace that surpasses all understanding" is all about. I've got all kinds of things in my life I'd like to change. Well, guess what? They're only going to change when I submit myself fully to God, and to His will, and accept the possibility that what I want to change is something that God isn't going to change in me just yet, and to be content in the knowledge that He'll change it in His time, when He sees fit. That doesn't mean I won't strive to change my diet--but it acknowledges that even the desire to do so is a direct result of His grace in my life.


alison said...

I wept reading, "we have to have enough mastery of ourselves to renounce our own will into the hands of Christ--so that He may conquer what we cannot reach by our own efforts." Thanks for writing that.

A tidy home seems so superficial, such a small thing, but you and I know that it's really going at the root of who you are.

There is such potential power in powerlessness - when we are completely clear that our own effort is never going to be enough.

This is my song too, Dan. Thanks for lifting your voice.

Dan said...

Thanks for the note Alison, and I'm glad Merton's words are as powerful for you as they are for me. It's such a beautiful insight, and I think we need to hear that everyday.