Anyone who is a parent of small children will have first-hand experience of the sheer volume of clutter that can be accumulated by the simple presence of little people in the house. With each passing day, the mountain of “stuff” seems to get bigger and bigger and when you’re living in a limited amount of space this stuff can get, well, pretty annoying. Half-finished drawings, completed and uncompleted assignments from school, innumerable stuffed animals, little cars, hockey sticks, crayons, gum and candy wrappers, jewelry, dolls, music papers, books… on and on the list goes. And as exhausting as it is to catalogue this endless collection of items that somehow find their way into our house, it’s even more frustrating to be faced with it at the end of a long day when the kids are finally in bed.
Especially when it hasn’t been a particularly memorable day. The kids are on spring “break” this week (I suspect that most parents will wonder who, exactly, is getting the break) and so there are six or so hours per day where they have to find something to occupy their time that does not involve inflicting physical harm on each other or mental trauma upon their parents. For the most part, things seem to go pretty well, but today was just one of those days where there seemed to be more crying and whining than laughter, more yelling than talking, more ignoring than understanding, and more coping than caring. It was a day where bedtime simply would not come soon enough.
So a few hours have passed, the house is quiet, everyone’s in bed, and I’m wandering around surveying the wreckage of another day. It’s been a day where some good has been done, to be sure, but also where we’ve managed to provoke and misunderstand one another, where difficult lessons have had to be learned, where the day’s end is more of a relief than anything else, and where many of the best intentions with which it began went largely unfulfilled.
And on a day like this, the mess described above just seems to be the exclamation point at the end of a dreary sentence that could have done without being written. So many things to pick up, put away, clean up, throw out, stuff out of sight, so much junk that seems to just keep on reappearing, such an omnipresent task that seems like nothing more than a burden that I wish would just find a way to go away.
But at the quiet end of a day like today another voice speaks as well. “These are signs of life,” the voice says, “signs that real people with real needs, desires, hopes, frustrations, anxieties, quirks, and delightfully unique personalities live in this messy, cluttered, and lovely place.” No matter how frustrating the noise, the mess, the boredom and lethargy, and the lack of “productivity” might feel over the course of the day, the voice that comes in the quiet of a day’s end reminds me that life is precious—a gift that is not to be taken for granted even when I might find the “fallout” inconvenient or overly demanding. This voice convinces me to try to see the gauntlet of toys that I must traverse in order to reach my bedroom not as annoying reminders of an exasperating day, but as signs of life, of the times we get to share as we grow and learn how to help each other become better versions of ourselves.
I think that Easter time is a time when our eyes might just be more attuned than usual to the possibility of signs of life—even in the most unlikely of places. A messy house with grouchy kids and frustrated parents, for example. Or maybe a simple tomb outside Jerusalem.
One thing that Easter teaches us, I think, is to never write off the mess of the human situation, the mess that we carry around wherever we go and which affects and infects so many of the things that we do and are, the mess that is made when God lets his children “do their own thing” for a while. The mess can be trying and painful, and we wish it wasn’t such a prominent feature of our days, but Easter teaches us that the very mess that we have made and continue to make is the mess that God enters and redeems, and out of which the signs of life that we all so desperately need emerge.