Debunking the Order Myth
Are you familiar with the story of Sisyphus? Sisyphus was a character from Greek mythology who was forced to push a giant boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. He was condemned by the gods to repeat this action for all eternity. It is from this myth that we get the term Sisyphean, which describes anything involving “endless but futile labor.”
Is it just me, or does that pretty much sum up domestic life? Every mom knows that cooked food, clean dishes and folded laundry disappear faster than rocks roll downhill. (If you’d like to have some fun and impress your friends, the next time someone asks how your day is going, just answer “Sisyphean!”)
Before you feel too sorry for poor Sisyphus, I should point out he was punished in the first place because he envied the gods and tried to deceive them. Sound familiar?
“You’ll be just like God, knowing everything.” When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. Genesis 3:5, 6 (The Message, emphasis added)
From that moment on, God’s perfect world became a perfect mess, and the curse of man was to spend the rest of his days trying to survive in it. The natural world would never be naturally ordered again.
If we hope to enjoy a well-ordered life, we have to let a few things slide. First of all, we must acknowledge just how high and steep that hill really is. In a sinful, messy world, order is hard-won and easily lost.
Secondly, we need to let go of the fantasy that our perfectly ordered life is possible if only everyone in it would stop messing it up. Disorder is not just a matter of everyone trying a little harder:
“If only I could get more organized.”
“If only my family would help more.”
“If only I had more—more time, more money, more discipline, more know-how.”
So long as we labor under that delusion, we will only continue to backslide. Shame and blame simply add more chaos. We all entered a messy world as messy people. None of us can hit that rock hard enough and fast enough to make it to the top and keep it there.
Life is short and sorrowful for every living soul. We are flowers that fade and shadows that vanish. There’s no way a human can be completely pure. Job 14: 1-2, 4
Finally, we need to confess we are mere mortals, living in a constant state of decay. As much as we long for order everlasting, we must accept that nothing manmade, from clean closets to cathedrals, stays made. To create anything of permanence we would need the power of the Creator himself.
Which brings us right back to the original mess.
The well-ordered life is going to take some serious housecleaning. It will need less finger-pointing and more forgiveness. We have to let some folks off the hook—our spouse, our kids, our boss—and that tired face in the mirror. We begin to restore order once we stop scape-goating and start serving.
We’ve all got some big rocks ahead.