It’s early evening and warm light streams in through my windows transforming dust particles into glitter and gold. Shadows fall in sharp relief on the wall as though Peter Pan and Tinkerbell were about to come out and play. In truth, though, this room is less of a child’s fairy tale and more of an adult’s mess. The debris of my life is scattered everywhere.
More than one half-empty water glass sits on the table beside my bed, along with crumpled packets of medication, two different kinds of moisturiser, a hairband that has long since lost its elasticity, a pen, a measuring tape, an empty yoghurt pot, and a dirty teaspoon. Who knows what you might need in the night?
On the floor beside the bed, several books I am in the middle of grace the carpet. A half-finished knitting project sits among them, as well as yesterday’s discarded sweater, a box of felt tip pens, a colouring book, and a pair of trainers left where I stepped out of them. A business card peeks out from underneath a notebook, while a box of tissues perches precariously on top.
The rest of the room tells a similar story. My desk is cluttered with papers and old birthday cards that I don’t have the heart to throw away. A pile of clothes waits patiently to be ironed. A bigger heap waits to be washed. Makeup and hair products are strewn haphazardly across one surface, while stacks of books fill windowsills that are acting as temporary bookshelves. In the middle of it all sits my unmade bed. Sunglasses and pajamas, books and papers, phone and charger roam about in the furrows and creases of my disordered duvet.
I could view this disorder through the lens of shame. After all, isn’t cleanliness supposed to be right up there next to godliness? But today, at least, I find space for kindness and curiosity. I feel soft-hearted toward the woman who is trying to drink more water. I see value in the woman who wants to capture snippets of ideas in notebooks before they flutter away on the breeze. I feel proud of the woman who takes the medication she needs to stay healthy.
One by one, I begin to gather up the pieces of my life. I touch each book by my bed with affection as I put it back in its place. I pick up my sweater, thankful for the warmth and comfort it brings me. I stack up notebooks and the ideas in them with tenderness and hope.
The hardest job is always the bed. Everything on it has to be cleared and sorted before covers can be straightened and pillows plumped. And heaven help me on change-the-bedding days. But still, the process is the same. Gather the pieces, one at a time. Stay attentive and compassionate. Handle things with gratitude and care.
As I clean my room, I think about how the Holy Spirit is at work in my life, helping me to see that each part of me is beautiful, created in the image of God, and worth caring for. The Spirit gathers together the fragmented parts, the pieces that I’ve discarded as broken and worthless, with tenderness and strength. With patience and kindness, the Spirit calls things back into order, straightens out what is tangled and messy and puts things in the right place. I feel the Spirit’s affection for the story of my life, touching each part of me with gentleness, bringing things to my attention that need restoring to wholeness, one by one.
I continue tidying as the evening light starts to dwindle and the dust that once glittered fades away. But I am not discouraged. I work with hope and expectation to create a space that is calm and serene. Keeping a room – and a life – in order is ongoing daily work. It is mundane and ordinary – a humble and holy calling. I am made in my Father’s image, and I tend to the tasks at hand as He leads; my room becoming a tiny reflection of the ways we can work together to create a world in which beauty, justice, and peace can emerge.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Abby King is a teacher, writer, avid reader and tea-drinker. In the classroom, she loves helping shape little minds, and is passionate about introducing children to great books. When she’s not teaching, Abby spends her time shaping words on the page, writing towards hope in the midst of hard things. Although she finds nature beautiful and inspiring, Abby is most definitely a city girl and makes her home in Birmingham, England. Creative and curious, Abby is a life-long learner who holds degrees in English and Theology, alongside gaining her teaching qualification from the University of Cambridge. In her spare moments, Abby plays flute, piano and cello and spends time with her nephews and nieces, whom she adores.