Embracing this Messy, Beautiful Life

Ask anyone who knew me growing up and they would tell you the same thing, I was a neat freak. That term alone, "neat freak", says a lot doesn't it? I've never really felt normal, for a lot of reasons, but one of those being that I've always been obsessed with order. Order in my closet, order on my plate and even order with the friends I have. For example, I would go to sleepovers at my friends house and clean their rooms... for fun. Totally normal. I feel like I was living from this place in my heart that said, "If I can just have control over these small areas in my life, then maybe I can control the rest of the chaos going on around me." Order and control really go hand-in-hand.

I've never had anyone tell me I have OCD. Maybe I've just always been a highly functioning OCDoer. Maybe that's why I succeeded in the military? Whatever it is I still feel out of sorts these days when things aren't in their right place. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Struggle is Real

For the first few years of marriage I was really passive aggressive about letting my wife know that I did not approve of her messy habits. Instead of using my words to communicate how I felt (INFJ's are you with me?) I would just rather do it myself. (Struggle!) Because God knows my way is the best way, and if her work didn't measure up to my high standards then I would just have to redo it anyways. So I might as well do it all myself. (Struggle!) And even when she did offer her help, to clean or organize or what have you, my heart was wrapped in a cord of criticism and self-doubt that I couldn't accept the gift she was to me and appreciate her help. (Struggle!)

The struggle, I've found, isn't really about the order of things, or the way in which my wife cleans, but more about the position of my heart. If my heart is seated on a couch of criticism then nothing will ever be good enough.  I feel part of the blessing and the curse of being creative is that 1. I am highly critical of myself first and 2. it's easy for me to be highly critical of others. The self-criticism exists, I believe, to give me a meter reading on my work and the intuition to know when something I'm working on is complete. Under the right direction, mainly the Holy Spirit, I feel like that can be used for good. But to criticize oneself just for the pure pleasure of it is unhealthy. And then the criticism of others is just something I have to constantly repent of.

Enter Parenthood

Although I know we've made major stride in our marriage in the past couple years, many thanks to those in our life willing to speak truth in love, I don't know if anything really prepares you for life after a baby. The very axis on which your world spins gets totally flipped, twisted and spun around. The notion of anything "normal" is all but a brief memory in the rearview mirror quickly fading on the horizon. There is nothing but uncharted terrain ahead and you never know where the next road leads. But it's exciting! Even for someone still caught up in his struggle with order. All the unknowns and unorganized parts of life now aren't just stacking up against me, I feel like they are helping establish trust between my wife and I and helping pave a way of greater faith in God. And sure, as much as I still try and keep my daughters hands and face free from snot, drool and food there is nothing I love more than her little messy embrace.

One final thought

This past year has brought a lot of new changes in our lives. Having a baby, like I mentioned, has been one of the biggest and brightest changes I think I'll ever know. We also moved in the middle of summer to a new home. This process of settling in hasn't been easy. I wish it were. I wish I could be that person that "rolled with the punches" and not let the little things bother me so much. But I do. And I think I have to admit that to move forward. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I can choose to be thankful for where we are, smack dab in the middle of this beautiful messy life, and take things one step at a time.