One night I found myself standing at the kitchen sink, angrily scrubbing the dinner dishes while my husband and our two foster children played outside in the backyard. It was a beautiful October evening, but I was annoyed. Annoyed that every dish in our house seemed to be dirty, that I had done two loads of laundry that day and still hadn’t tackled it all, that my new rug was covered in dirt and wood chips from the park.
In that moment I realized that I was prioritizing a clean house over things that actually mattered. I don’t often make the right choice in these “lightbulb-moment” situations, but I’m thankful to say that on this particular day I took a break from aggressively cleaning dishes, went outside, and ended up having a great time with my family.
I can’t help but be reminded of the classic Mary-and-Martha story in the Bible, when Jesus gently says to an over-worked, stressed out Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Our clean houses won’t last forever (and if your house is anything like ours, it won’t even last an hour). Jesus reminds us that there is only one thing that does last forever, and that’s our relationship with Him. What a perspective shift, right? I don’t want to spend my short time on earth stressing about laundry or spilled apple juice or dirty socks on the floor.
Instead, I want to shift my mind’s focus to the things of eternity. I also want to view those daily messes with eyes of gratitude: laundry means family members that I love, spilled juice means fun and giggly children in the house, dirty socks mean a day spent playing outside.
I’ve heard it said that a messy house is a sign of life. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose, I would much rather have a home filled with life, laughter, and celebration than with perfectly dusted shelves and squeaky clean floors. So I’m trying to embrace the mess—the literal, physical mess in my house.
Sometimes I still catch myself running around after dinner, picking up all of the toys and sippy cups and things that rolled under the couch, and then I realize that my time would probably be better spent connecting with God or my loved ones. There is certainly a time and a place for cleaning, but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be every time and every place. A little mess is okay.
If, like me, you follow cleaning blogs and have made your own natural version of Windex and have a constant backache from bending down every five seconds to pick up crumbs off your kitchen floor…take heart. There is grace for us. There is an opportunity here to embrace the mess, breathe a little deeper, and set your mind on the things that truly matter.
If you were looking for a permission slip, here it is: Leave the dinner dishes and go join that game of backyard tag with your family. When you look back on these days, you won’t remember how clean your house was but instead how present, connected, and joyful you felt. The dishes can wait.
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