The Failure Siren OR Things I am Attempting to Un-learn

Saturday, the Peanut got into the german cold cream my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas. Penaten cream is awesome for dry baby cheeks and diaper rash, but it has a bit of a sticky quality to it (we have sent the Peanut through three showers and I don’t think it is out of her hair. Good thing she loves showers). Sunday morning I realized that her tennis shoes were covered in cold cream and we could not find the other leather Robee anywhere. My kid had exactly one shoe to wear to church…awesome. So I dropped Christian and Rooster-head off early and off we went to Target.

We were late to church, but we weren’t even the last ones through the door. It really was no big deal. Except, it felt like a big deal.

It felt like I am a terrible wife and mother, worse, that I am a terrible woman of God.

The reason we couldn’t find the dumb leather shoe was because my house is a disaster. There are q-tips all over the living room floor where the Peanut left them, a cheese grater in the hallway (courtesy of guess who), toys and shoes and clothes and stuff that I need to find a place for are everywhere. Christian and I have the tendency to leave stuff out or drop stuff as soon as we get in the door. And the Peanut loves to shuffle it all around.

And if I am going to be honest, (you know, because I never let it all hang out on this thing) I pretend it doesn’t bother me. It haunts me, like so many of these seemingly innocuous failures do. But the house, the state that the house is in most of the time. That is the thing that makes me sob during worship as my friend wraps her arms around me and tells me that I am doing a good job, that my kids and my husband are remarkably happy, that she is sure glad I am teaching high schoolers. She believes I am called to it just like I do.

If my days were like a leisurely Sunday drive, they would start out just fine. But slowly I would notice that I hear a faint siren, like any ambulance siren. Wee-ooo, wee-ooo, wee-ooo. Only this siren doesn’t go wee-ooo, wee-ooo, wee-ooo. It goes fail-ure, fail-ure, fail-ure. To the exact same tune and rhythm.

On good days I only hear it faintly and I can tell from the sound that it is headed in the opposite direction. I don’t need to worry about that noise, it has no bearing on where I am or the direction I am headed.

On other days I hear it coming, fail-ure fail-ure fail-ure, but it does not overtake me. I turn, it turns, I pull over and let it pass. Those days I have a moment or two when I think it is coming for me, the failure siren, but something or other allows the noise to leave my mind.

But there are days when I spend my moments trying to outrun the siren. And as I speed through the day it keeps coming closer. I try desperately to avoid the siren, fail-ure fail-ure. I start running red lights and taking sharp turns. I careen through life hoping that I don’t run over anyone while I am just trying to get away from the noise. Fail-ure Fail-ure Fail-ure.

It comes. Closer and closer until it is right next to my car and the lights and the sound are so bright, so loud, so frantic that it is the only thing I can think or see or hear. FAIL-URE FAIL-URE FAIL-URE. YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TODAY. YOUR KIDS, YOUR HUSBAND, YOUR STUDENTS DESERVE BETTER. GOD DOES NOT APPROVE! And even when the moment passes and the ambulance finally leaves. The sound resonates in my ears; I see spots from the lights and I have trouble thinking. I am shaken deeply by the encounter. I cannot let it go.

Those are the days where I tell the story of my failure loudly and to anyone who will hear and then laugh my loud, occasionally obnoxious, laugh and hope that you join me. I am re-telling the same story and laughing at the same parts in hopes that if I just talk and laugh and have you laugh loud enough it will drown out the remnants of the siren. Sometimes it does. Sunday it did not.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the failure siren overtook me on Sunday. That failure came as a direct result of my inability to keep my house in order. And I am trying very hard to un-learn the lies that I have learned about a woman and the state of her home. How those things are connected and how she should find her value in that. But it is still deeply ingrained within me. That a woman’s job is keeping her house and the affairs of her husband and children in order, that no matter what else she does if she is not doing this well she is failing.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I believe this lie so deeply because the church reinforced it. I have been very lucky to have had largely positive experiences when it comes to the three churches that I have been a member of. But the church is made of people and those people sometimes get it wrong.

I have been told over and over again that God cares about the state of my house. As a woman, it speaks to my Godliness. A Proverbs 31 woman would keep her house neat and clean and always know where her kids shoes are.  Folks, I just read Proverbs 31, and that lady works super hard and her husband and children think she is awesome. But it never says in there that she has a clean house. But it does reference the servants who are probably pickng up said house. Why did people tell me that it talked about the state of my living room?

Fact: I once read a study companion to Esther that told me one of the main take aways to that amazing story was that we should always be presentable and have a presentable house so that we could use our neat houses for God’s glory. Never mind the fact that Esther had people who made her and the house that she was being forced to occupy presentable. She had nothing to do with it. I think this version is probably more accurate.

Somehow the lie that God demands that all women are called to home and hearth, that if I do not care that the baby clothes are in the living room and I have absolutely no clue what I am having for dinner until Elizabeth feeds it to me (With a glass of wine. You are the best girl. The best.) that I am not a Godly woman has seeped in so deeply I don’t know how to dig it out.

I know women who are called to serve the Lord in their home right now. I think that their work is difficult and valuable. And I am grateful they do it well. I have been blessed by more than one of these women more times than I can count. But honestly, I don’t think I am called to be one of them.

Christian and I are both people who can thrive despite (and sometimes because of) chaos. Stuff all over doesn’t bother me really. This trait in the past has made people crazy (oh hi, mom, sisters, college roomie) but right now it is a serious asset. It allows me to use the small window when I am home and the girls are awake to play with them. It means I can take the girls out of the house on the weekend so Christian can get some reading and writing done. Because if I am out of the house, then I can’t clean it.

Right now hospitality does not look like a clean house and some fresh cookies I baked just because. It looks like me swallowing my pride and inviting you to move the toddler clothes and have a seat. Sorry if they smell like pee. I hope that this is not how it will be forever, but my kids, my husband and my boss are all currently happy with me, so for now it just needs to be like that.

In my head I know that this is true, and in my heart too, but the failure siren…I am learning that I may out run it some days, but to really get it to shut up, I better de-construct it.

5 thoughts on “The Failure Siren OR Things I am Attempting to Un-learn

  1. Abby, I love this post. I think if any woman is honest there is a siren in her life regarding something. It’s definitely true for me. I love that you mentioned the study on Ester. Our church has a new pastor and his first sermon series going on right now is on Ester. He brought up something I had never heard or thought of before. We see Ester as a heroin of the Bible so we don’t think about how when Xerxes’ eunich takes her from Mordaccai’s home she really should have made it known she was Jewish since as a Jewish woman she was not to marry a non-Jew. She may have been killed for this (since Xerxes was a narcissistic, egotistical pig who viewed women as only property and would most likely not have wanted to marry a woman who wasn’t Perssian anyway) or she may have been returned to her family. Who knows. Yes, you could say she was being submissive to Mordaccai, but really they both made a compromise. Yes, it may have been a compromise to avoid death, but consider Daniel. In our narrow views of the Bible and it’s characters it’s easy to give her a pass, but she compromised.

    God used her anyway. Our pastor’s summary for Ester has been that the way God works in the book of Ester is much like how he usually works in our lives. No conspicuous miracles, but he is always involved in the story of our life. I love it that he has not mentioned anything about Ester being used by God because she had it all together. God worked throughout Ester to save his people when Ester compromised and when she was valiant. This paints a much more relevant and relatable picture of Ester and a much wider view of our God. How much greater is a God who can work through that than through the picture-perfect, one- dimensional Ester I’ve always been taught?

    Surely, God can work through me and you, too. Sirens blaring and all. Where was that study of Ester when we were growing up?

  2. Derek and I can not keep up with the 3 kids, laundry, dishes, and picking up stuff, let alone actually scrubbing a sink or a toilet, and neither of us has full-time work outside the home right now!! That being said, I am all too familiar with the sound of the failure siren echoing through my mind. God has given you a perfect fit at your job, your marriage, your child care situation, your finances are good right now, Get a cleaning lady Sister!! If I could I would in a second. Just sayin, (and you know I’m not just sayin =) ) I love you!!

  3. I’m with Emily – Get a cleaning lady. I did and I only worked two afternoons a week. In the meantime, I applaud your choice to play with kids and ignore the clutter. If your life works, it clearly is not wrecked – the siren must not be for you.

  4. Pingback: When I am desperate, God is till enough | Accidental Devotional

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