Tonight I headed out to the art shed to look for a set of Logic books that I need for a class I am thinking about teaching in the spring. When I opened the door to this small space I was aghast at it’s condition. My two oldest daughters use this space the most, and it was amazing to me that such little care is taken with all the very expensive art supplies in their room. This space is intended to be an artist’s retreat…a renovated plant shed fully furnished with oils, canvases, watercolors, chalks, charcoal, drawing pencils, instruction books, etc. I left the little wreck of a room quite angry. Before prayers I had a chat with the girls about caring for our home and respecting the things in it as objects of great value. Because things do have value…and not just monetary value. They have value in themselves.
In a world that has gone spiritually mad it is often difficult to understand the material world…to value it in such a way that elevates it as holy. And yes, I believe paint and pencils and books are holy things, along with everything else in the created world. One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up quite nicely in her wonderful book Walking on Water,
“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (And if you love the subjects of art and faith this is a must read…a must purchase.)
When I first read that book in my early twenties it was like a butterfly effect in my life…a small change that created an earthquake later down the road. And since, I have been utterly undone by the knowledge of the Incarnation and its implications. A simple shift, yet so profound…no longer must the material world be subject to the murderous accusation of being evil, or worse, mundane. No longer must men decide if some thing is good…if some thing is evil. Everything God created is good!
Christ became man, taking on flesh, showing that man can become by grace what Christ is by nature…we become the body of Christ. Christ showed us that the material world is good, and real, and valuable. It’s all very deep, and I do not intend to get in over my head in theology. But, at the same time I know that this knowledge, however limited and shallow, has changed my life. This knowledge can change one’s entire inner posture and experience. Because of Christ man has the power to redeem his world….to live the incarnation. Every good work is essentially an incarnational work. And what we would deem as bad works, or sin, have no material value because evil cannot create anything.
But, I am a common housewife…busy with so-called mundane tasks…tasks that go unnoticed and undervalued by a world that is high on ideological promises and rhetoric. A world that believes ideas change the world, not home cooked meals and prayers before bed. How can this common housewife be anything more than the one saddled with all the unpleasant necessaries…the stuff that has to be done so we can get on with the real business of the world? Is my work really valuable…the work of my hands? Is it incarnational…dirty diapers, really?
And yet, here I am tonight thinking about art supplies and how they are holy and how if my children will value them it will grow in them a heart after God. And how lately I have been in a modern mood…not really valuing things…and barely tolerating people. A momentary lapse of heart…that’s what it really is.
After I came in from the art shed I opened the altar cabinet doors, and I decided to take care of something valuable…something I have been neglecting…the liturgical supplies. Incense has permeated the wood along with the earthy smell of beeswax. It is a wonderful smell, and it did my heart good to touch the things in the cabinet, holy things. I looked across my living room and an interesting thought crossed my mind…everything in this room is holy. This is the antidote for my modern mood…for my lack of enthusiasm. Every thing and every person in this home has value…in and of itself. And I am the keeper…the keeper at home…the keeper of home.
My work is holy. And every thing I encounter in my day; the laundry, the crying, the dishes, the food, the neighbor, the phone call…every demand, every interruption, every failure, every trill of laughter is…
Christ in our midst.
Most days these kinds of thoughts do not pass through my mind. Most days I just get up and put my work boots on…one at a time. But sometimes it is good to remember, especially when life begins to stretch me thin and and I feel like my work is drudgery. Sometimes we keepers at home can get in a bad way.
Tomorrow I am going to help the girls make things right in the art shed. I plan on cooking a nice dinner and finishing up the laundry. I hope to steal away for a bit and finish my Journey to Nativity calendar. There’s always school that needs doin’, and babies that need rockin’, and dishes that need washin’. And I am going to read this post again in the morning…and remind myself that all of this…this big life that wears me out…it’s holy…it’s valuable…it’s incarnational.
It’s Christ in our midst.