Let me interrupt our adoption narrative for a check-in with present reality. When reading stories about justice, redemption, people helping people and good things coming out of bad, it’s easy to get romantic about it and imagine that things are PERFECT.
By PERFECT, I mean that as you read, you are quite certain that none of these rescued, redeemed, living-the-miracle people ever drop a rejected dinner casserole into the trash uneaten, or iron a dirty shirt because they forgot to do laundry, or look at the ring of grossness around the drain in the bathroom sink and think, I can’t even imagine when that’s going to get cleaned…
I haven’t done these particular things THIS week (although wow our bathroom sink is gross). But a scenario unfolded this morning that might be a necessary corrective to the idea that we just sit around with the Cherubs endlessly thanking each other for our sacrificial wonderfulness. We are four real people, living a real life. And today, real = smelly.
I was in #1 Cherub’s room to get the dog and I noticed an ODOR coming from his dresser. It wasn’t a blast of smell, like when you pass a skunk. It was more of a slow, growing pungency that made me wonder, Is he keeping a rodent in there? I opened the top drawer slowly, but the only fur I saw is the fluff shed by THIS DOG. There was a lot of it there because it was stuck to ALL THE WORN, DIRTY SOCKS IN THE WORLD. I opened the second drawer, where I discovered every outfit he wore in the month of October, mashed into wads. The next drawer appeared to be September’s wardrobe, clothes I’d forgotten he owned.
Sure, I guess I’ve noticed that he’s been wearing the same few things for about two weeks now, but I thought this was preference, not necessity. UGH was I wrong. (THANK YOU JESUS, I issued a 7 days/7 pairs rule a few months back for how much underwear I expect to see each week in the wash. But WHY has it never occurred to me to issue a similar edict for all the other clothes???)
I pulled out every dirty item. The pile is literally up to my knees. #1 is small for his age, still pre-growth spurt, and so these are not big clothes. There are just A LOT of them. And they ALL SMELL LIKE RODENT.
I can’t stop laughing. I have no idea why. This just strikes me as hilarious. I want to shellac this pile of abandoned clothes & dog fur and call it “Teen Boy: A Tribute.” I’ve been to the Institute of Contemporary Art (or as The Cherubs call it, “the place with porn books in the gift shop”) An installation like this could send a cherub to college! Or at least provide a fun conversation starter the first time he brings home a special girl :)
In my better moments (and today seems to be one of them) my lens on life is a comment Jesus made to his friends: The Kingdom of God is at hand. God’s Kingdom = heaven, and Jesus told us to pray for things here on earth to be like they are up there. When we do good things that are hard – when we love people, when we’re generous, when we choose peace instead of fighting, or praise instead of cynicism, when we’re doing Kingdom work and all we see is hell on earth (or smell on earth, as the case may be…) we’re still moving the line for God’s Kingdom. We trust what we know more than what we see, and in doing so, somehow we see more of what we know.
I’m doing this now, as I find myself laughing rather than trying to dream up a strategy that will make me the first Mom in history to get her teen boy to care about clean clothes. As they say in all the adoption/raising teens books: Pick your battles carefully. Win the ones you pick.
The Kingdom of God is that I have THIS wonderful, smart, funny, loving, smelly boy living in my house. The evidence of God’s love for me is that I am the parent, which means when he gets home from school I can pick a winnable battle: He will pick up all that smelly grossness and transport it to the laundry room, or nothing good will ever happen again in life. (Which in teen boy terms means, no Wii). The fruit of all of this will be, I think, that both he and his sister will see that they can screw up, be held accountable, and yet still through it all be totally loved.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. It’s a Holy mess. But I’ll take it.