There is a careful balance between a pleasant melody and a ear-splitting cacophony. It is amazing how one wrong note can so discolor a song that a listener turns away in physical pain, covering his or her ears- or how strange a song sounds when one instrument tries to solo on a syncopated beat when it should be playing together with the instruments in proper time. This is what I think of when I think of the family routine and the family culture: "what song are we playing today?" and "is it pleasant to the ear?"
    I find myself at a crossroads as I write this series on the simple, one-piece life. I know why I began down this path in the beginning, what I was looking and hoping for in the new adventure of it. Now I have two or three years "under my belt" so to speak, and I've realized that the underlying desire for peace and gentle obedience to the Lord's calling was right but that my living out of it, in practice, has left much to be desired. I have wondered often over the last few days if it was a matter of perspective. I think in the beginning I had the short view, the practical view. As this journey has progressed, my sight has lengthened and deepened, and I feel as if I understand the underlying principles much better. The short view, and practice of 'simple living' without the deeper understanding, leads to a shallow practice, a plant with weakened root systems that is easily uprooted or damaged at the slightest storm. Then, when the storm comes, the routines and systems and organization easily fall into disarray or are abandoned altogether because their roots do not go deep into the family culture.
    A lack of rhythm in a family is often at the core of family troubles- everyone is playing at once and no one can hear, so to speak, so disobedience, tiredness, and disrespect (in both adults towards children and children towards parents) grows like rife weeds. Likewise, forcing slavery to a schedule blindly and without consideration of the family's unique needs sets up a family for similar failure. It seems so easy- check off this list, follow this instruction, schedrule your life like [insert popular advice here] and your life will be "wonderful!" "Organized!" "You won't believe the time you'll find!", and more dangerously so, "perfect!" I think my husband said it well when he described the myriad tools at our fingertips for organization and cleaning schedrules (etc.) like the stakes and trellises we build for the plants in our garden. I personally enjoy a book on schedruling for large families. I am sure everyone who reads here has a particular person or website that they like to use to help them in their routines. But there is a severe danger in thinking that using one particular 'way of doing things' is going to make life perfect. The kids will always be dressed, there were always be food on the table promptly at dinner time…right? In this, we are mistaking the trellis, the tool for growth, for the actual plant of discipline and the desire to follow God whole heartedly. Even worse, we begin to feel 'un-holy' or 'not Christian enough' because such and such way of doing things has not worked for us. (Which isn't the truth- it just means that the system may not be suited to our families' unique needs, or, perhaps, we're leaning on the wrong trellis?)
    So what's the tomato in this instance? I think this is where I have learned the most on this journey of simple living. First, let me borrow a passage from For The Children's Sakes by Susan Schaffer Macaulay.

And of Christians: Do they enjoy the living reality of a relationship with God and His Word? Do they feel impelled to masticate 'Christian' matter and give predigested pellets to the Children morning, noon, and night? Do they understand the truth of Christianity? Do they accept its moral framework, and yet believe in our own independent responsibility? Are they living in a tiny world, a sort of Christian box? Are they afraid of the breadth of the life: its art, music, books, activities- thinking that all life apart from the "spiritual" is "worldly"?
The tomato, the end result I think many are looking for in this pursuit, is a one-piece life, wholly integrated between our walk with God and our walk with others. But the reality is that we live divided lives, where we have our Sunday attitudes and our work-a-day attitudes, the two hardly intermixing, and we can't see where discipline in doing the laundry has anything to do with our pursuit of God through prayer and reading of the Word; the two have 'nothing to with each other', or so we think, and again we go with shallow roots into another harried week of schedrules and lists that don't bring peace. But this is God's created world, His masterpiece. We are made in His image, and, as Christians, everything we do is in service to Him and for His glory.  Doing the laundry, and keeping it up, serves my family. It keeps them clothed, with the ability to be out in the world and do the things they need to do to serve others. The same with those dinners too. We can't belittle small acts of service, whatever they may be, simply because they are small; they are part of God's design and His calling for his people.
    Dare I say it? I think we belittle these small acts of service, these small seasons of life, by living in a schedruled, divided-life sort of way. When we seperate the majestic from the mudane (at least in our eyes) we aren't seeing the God that makes a beautiful flower grow in the cracks and chasms of an abandoned and ill-cared-for parking lot. On the other side, God has called us to grow, and grow well, where He has planted us. That requires discipline. We're not supposed to grow willy-nilly and all over the place- we're supposed to grow firm, strong and courageous in His Truth.
    I've seen this in my own journey so far. I started this out in a very perfectionistic, type A sort of way. Checking the list, following the rule book, reading all the advice. And yes, in a practical sense, it did bring order. Any sort of discipline will bring order of a sort. But long-lasting, peace-giving order will not come without the firm foundations, the deep understanding of the Lord, and how He has designed my family,  listening to the unique song He has orchestrated for us in the larger symphony of His work and world. I guess that's why I've been so careful to hash this all out before I jump into practical things I have learned about schedruling, meal-planning, routines, and what-not- I do not want to cause another to fall into a trap of perfectionistic rule-following that is not of God. I feel like I started out all willy-nilly instead of learning what it meant to be firm and strong in the Lord in practical ways.
    What does this mean to you? What are some barriers you've experienced? Have you confused the trellis for the tomato?
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The trellis or the tomato?

One thought on “The trellis or the tomato?

  • June 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm
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    I just loved your post! I wrote you a long comment about what it meant to me, but then Typepad kept saying it couldn’t “post my data”. LOL I kept shortening it to see if that was the problem, to no avail.
    I wrote a blog post on my blog about what it meant to me. Thank you so much!

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