Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Keeping House" Read-Along: Chapter 1, Part 2

The first commandment (to love God with all one's heart and soul and strength and mind) always takes precedence over the second commandment (to love one's neighbor as oneself). But in the paradoxical realm that is real life, it is not possible to love God without loving neighbor, and a primary and essential way of loving one's neighbors is to feed and clothe and house them.

I feel that this section of the book had two main points and that they are well summed-up in the above-quoted paragraph:

1) Housekeeping is not the most important thing in the world, and,

2) Housekeeping is an important thing in the world.

It's the way that Peterson holds that paradox in right tension that really gives this book its value. Too often the pressing nature of housework tricks us into thinking that housework is the whole world, that if only we could keep everything clean all the time all the other problems would solve themselves and we'd all be perfectly happy.

And that isn't true. In fact, too often, that very pressing nature - the immediacy of needing food to eat and clean clothes to wear and a place to lie down and sleep - can prove a terrible distraction from "the one thing needful", a frustrating sort of temptation, a jangling noise that draws our attention away from our Lord and gives us nothing but neverending work in return.

But at the same time, in cleaning and covering and feeding and caring lies our secondary duty - the love of neighbor, and we can't, as Peterson says, really love God without loving our neighbor. It reminds me of the old song lyric, "A heart to God/And a hand to man". Our eyes on Him and our hands active about his work.

And in that work we learn something we can't learn any other way: we learn a longing for home. In loving these imperfect homes we learn to value home and also we learn that the ones we have are not sufficient or final:

The practicalities of housekeeping - cooking, cleaning, laundry - are among the things that ground our existence in the particular times and places in which we live and in so doing make it possible for us to keep alive the memory of our first home in paradise and the hope of our ultimate home in God's new creation.
More thoughts on this book found here.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

1 comment:

Willa said...

That paradox is so real to me. I suppose that the nature of paradoxes is that you have to keep two things in mind to "get" them. Which would help explain why I continually struggle with the balance.... maybe it's in the nature of the thing properly understood. Thanks for bringing that part of it out.