I’ve been pretty discouraged about the state of my house recently. The other day my in-laws came over to take my 2 daughters out to lunch. I was hoping to meet them at the door and send the girls off without a trip inside to see the new level of squalor we had stooped to. Unfortunately, I missed that window of opportunity by being upstairs when they arrived, so I had to face the inevitable: someone’s entrance into my house. When they stepped inside, there really wasn’t any place for them to even stand. They had to kind of step inside the door and stop cold because there literally was no place to step without stepping on something. When they brought the girls back home after their date, Ava, my oldest, went upstairs to use the bathroom. As I’m swaddling up my youngest to get her ready for a nap, I catch the words, “Oh, we forgot to give Ava a goodbye kiss” come out of my mother-in-law’s mouth. Oh dear. Inwardly, I am cringing. This is going to be embarrassing. Climbing those stairs is going to be more like ascending Mount Everest for all the crap they’re going to have to vault over to make it upstairs. When they reached the bathroom, not only do they still have nowhere to even stand, but this time, it’s not only toys that are littering the floor, but also underwear. Cute.
Of course, it’s not always that bad. We usually have space to at least walk in our house. But at least one room is almost always a mess. It just seems like as soon as I get one room looking somewhat picked-up, another room seems to explode. Or I get the house more or less cleaned up one day, and the next it’s looking like I haven’t cleaned in months.
In the past, I haven’t been too bothered by all this. I would just keep plugging along, cleaning up. Last month, though, I started getting frustrated. I started grumbling under my breath. I thought up a derogatory name for our house (which would be inappropriate for me to share on a church blog). I couldn’t get that nickname for our house out of my mind and it was making me angrier every time I thought of it. But more than being frustrated, I started asking myself questions.
I started wondering if my messy house meant something more than a messy house. I started wondering if it meant that I was failing as a mom. I started thinking of all my mom-friends that have spotless houses. Now, I know any mom-friend would say that their house is not spotless, but in my mind it seemed like everyone else had a spotless house. Like everyone else could keep up with these mom-responsibilities…and I couldn’t. In my mind, it seemed like my messy house was condemning me as a bad mom.
One night in the middle of this ‘messy house = failure mom’ mental struggle, my husband and I watched a baseball movie together. Not really where I’d expect God to show up. Not really where I’d expect Him to speak into my questions about my worth as a woman. But He did.
There I am, watching this baseball movie that’s all about scouting and money and statistics, when this stunning scene hits me right smack in the middle of my ‘Is everyone else in the whole world able to keep up except me?’ struggle. In the movie, the main character is a baseball scout who tries to change the inner workings of the game by using a technique of team development that no one else has ever tried before. He takes a team that is destined to lose, due to lack of financial resources, and turns them into an almost-winning team.
The main character has done something completely incredible in the game of baseball. What he did, when seen from an objective point of view, was a complete success. He brought the team from loss after loss to win after win. I don’t remember the exact stats, but it was stunning what he did. At the end of the season, though, he feels like a complete loser, because he didn’t reach his ideal of winning the World Series.
In this scene at the end of the movie, the main character is talking to his assistant about how he failed, and the assistant insists that his boss sees a video clip of a baseball player. The video was of a player who would always, always, always only make it to first base. He never hit more than a single. The video clip showed the one time the man decided to run to second base, and what he had always feared, happened: he fell down as he was rounding, and ended up having to scramble back to first base on his stomach. How embarrassing! But then the clip shows everyone on the field yelling, telling him to get up and run. That’s when he realizes that he actually hit a home run, without even knowing it! Here he is, feeling like a complete failure, when he actually hit a home run. And through this video, the scout’s assistant is basically telling the main character that even though he lost the World Series, even though it wasn’t perfectly ideal, he still ‘hit a home run’ that season.
When I saw that scene, of both the player hitting a home run without even knowing it, and of the scout doing an amazing thing but not being able to see it because he was blinded by his ideals, I felt God speak directly to my heart. “Sarah,” He said, “You are hitting a home run in your home…and you don’t even know it.” He was telling me that, yes, my ideal for a perfectly spotless house wasn’t being met. I don’t live in a Pottery Barn catalogue. But I’m still hitting a home run. I’m loving my precious daughters. I’m using my energy and strength every day to mother them, to raise them to love Him. I’m serving my family by continuing to pick up my house. I’m learning to give up more and more of myself for my family. I’m growing in responsibility. I’m on a trajectory of success as a mom. Looking around, I might feel like a failure but I’m actually winning. I’m hitting a home run.
Man, that spoke deeply to my soul. I’m not a failure! I’m not expending all this energy only to find out that I don’t have it in me to be a good mom. I’m actually succeeding! My definition of success has just been different than God’s definition has been for me. Maybe next time my in-laws come over and there’s no place to stand, I’ll simply say, “It may look like a mess, but guess what? I’m hitting a homerun!”