The Dark Night of the Soul is a condition experienced by the great mystics and holy souls. It consists of the withdrawal of feelings of consolation in prayer, and of dryness in the spiritual life. Saints who have gone through the Dark Night persist in their prayers and in their works because they know that God is real, that he loves them, and that their feelings are not representative of the objective truth of his goodness and his love. Their struggle is real, but they know it does not reflect reality.
Today it struck me: I've spent years in the Dark Night of the Housekeeping.
Perhaps you too once were excited to cook multi-ingredient meals for your family -- maybe you even checked cookbooks out at the library or had a subscription to a foodie magazine. Perhaps at one time there was a bit of happiness in pulling a broom across the floor, or changing the sheets, or wiping down the bathroom because the place looked nicer. Once, maybe, it was fun to rearrange the furniture because the family was expanding. These things brought some kind of joy because they brought order and peace to the home, even if each particular action was mundane.
Yeah. Do you know, it's been several years since I liked cooking? Time was when I actually wanted to chop vegetables for a stew or spend all day whipping up some delicacy. I even made my own tortillas a few times. I did these things because I wanted to -- it was a respite from the grind of having lots of small children around the place. I made plans for how we'd renovate the kitchen and the living room to eke a bit more space and order out of our dull suburban box. I painted. I refinished. I even sewed, believe it or not. And I did these things because I found them good.
Now cooking is a chore, done last-minute and mainly because I know the family needs to eat. The living room descends into chaos, and I just sigh in the doorway and, once again, sit on the kids while they straighten. Laundry... to be honest, Darwin has mainly taken over the laundry. These household tasks are the equivalent, to me, of the chain gang moving gravel from one pile to another. I do them because I have to, or because I can't get away with not doing them. But the joy of running a household is a thing of the past.
A thing of the future, too, I hope. I remember reading someone saying that God sends exactly the amount of grace you need in a given situation, so that having two grown kids left at home is about as hard as having three toddlers underfoot. Once I was overwhelmed with infants, but I kinda liked keeping the house. Now I have big kids who can help with things, and I don't have any desire at all to do more than the bare minimum. One day, I hope, I'll feel all gourmet again and start whipping up culinary delights for the fun of it. Maybe the challenge of a messy living room will invigorate me. Maybe food shopping will be the fun exercise it was when our budget was severely constrained, instead of the energy sink it is now that we don't have to watch the total.
Better the Dark Night of the Housekeeping than the Dark Night of the Soul, of course. Better to have work deprived of consolation than the life of the spirit turned arid and devoid of light. I don't know that I need to beg that God bring me back the joy of salvation, but if he would sustain a willing spirit in me in regards to mopping the floor and disinfecting the bathroom, that would be nice too.
Reading Notes April 2017
1 hour ago