Change Is Afoot
It was a sunny winter day in the Pacific Northwest, and I had my Miele vacuum cleaner in hand. The endless days of gray hide the dust and scattered debris. But once the sun shines, I become a cleaning dervish! I hate dust. I hate clutter. I hate busy rooms with items not in their place. I find peace only after cleaning and de-cluttering. I was Marie Kondo before she was born! As a child, I found peace in organizing every drawer in our home. My husband is at “home” with dust, chaos, and clutter because he creates most of it. Once I am sure that I don’t need to keep something, I love driving to Goodwill and bequeathing items to someone else. Dan fears that one day I will deposit him in the big yellow container; it is possible, but not likely.
I recently joined a book club, and we are reading Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals Our True Calling, co-authored by my husband Dan and Cathy Loerzel. The authors use six archetypes.The first three—orphan, stranger, and widow—help us understand our wounding and how it affects us. The second three—priest, prophet, and king/queen—help us see our glory: how suffering has grown us into who we are meant to become.
In the beginning of the book, they draw attention to the experience of being orphaned. Their premise is that whether we have parents or not, we can’t escape being an orphan, as well as a widow or a stranger. It got me thinking about my habits and what brings me comfort.
My grandparents were all born in the late 1800’s. One of my great-grandmothers drove a covered wagon from Kentucky to Delaware, Ohio, after her second husband died! A gracious congregation allowed her to live in the church basement with her six children. They all worked hard to eventually find a place to live. My ten-year-old grandfather was hired by a widow to do “a grown man’s work.” On days she didn’t need him, he borrowed her horse and went to school.
My parents were born in 1922, and they, too, lived through perilous times: The Great Depression and World War II. They both lost a parent to cancer when they were too young to bear the grief. This meant that my mother and my father were each home, alone, caring for the home, while their remaining parent worked every day. My dad, Paul, had before- and after-school newspaper routes. He would be home alone three days at a time because his father was a railroad engineer. My mother begged her way out of an orphanage after two weeks, but her younger brothers remained in Knights of Pythian home for years. My mother was the one cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her mother, who was barely able to take care of anything.
Growing up in my family left me feeling guilty for having food to eat and two living parents.
Discipline was swift. Belts or branches from hedges marked my body. I was parented by two orphans, and I learned to ask for little and want only what I could provide for myself.
I then married a driven man who feared the alienation he suffered as a “stranger.”
We both feared destitution and divided marital chores accordingly. We both could live with very, very little. I would see his schedule and mark the calendar three months out when I thought there would be time for me to bring a complaint or problem to light. The “orphan” in me kept order and knew how to wait, or just never ask.
Dan and I have survived and been driven by the orphan parts of ourselves. But change is afoot. Often it has taken us the awkward period after a book has been written to read it and walk into what we both know is true, but too easily are able to escape. My heart is freer to ask and to predict the chess match of how we often defend ourselves against what we fear. I am not only reading his book, but using it to invite the author to return to what I know is the goodness of God.
Orphans are seldom free enough to be playful and tease, or to be sufficiently extravagant to let the play be mutual and surprising. I still clean as soon as the sun shines, but order is not my default control as a terrified orphan. Instead, I am more apt to remind him, when we pass the large yellow Goodwill container, that it looks a lot like his future home.