I am not a naturally clean person.
To wit: When I was a senior in college, I lived in a house with five other guys. One day I woke up, threw on some shorts and socks, and went into the kitchen for breakfast. I was only a few steps into the kitchen when I realized my previously warm right foot was now awash in a cool draft.
Our floor was so dirty that my sock stuck to the floor when I stepped down and stayed stuck when I walked forward.
Needless to say, I had to make some changes after I got married.
My wife is a neat-freak. There are certain things that were part of her daily routine that I rarely (if ever) did in my bachelor life: make the bed, do the dishes, wipe down the walls of the shower, brush off the couches, clean the bathroom floors with a toothbrush.
Okay, I made the last one up, but the rest are real. Married life was, for me, somewhat of a culture shock.
At first, I kind of resented it. It seemed like a lot of unnecessary work, a lot of distraction from the R&R I so valued and cherished. Why wash dishes when there’s football to watch?
I even made fun of her for some of it. Like the throw pillows: The woman has as many throw pillows on our bed as the Cardinals have World Series titles. Whenever people would ask or comment, I’d just kind of raise my eyebrows in a “What can I say, she’s crazy” kind of motion, like I had nothing to do with it.
But the thing is, even from the beginning, I kind of liked her craziness. I liked knowing where things were. I liked not having to wonder where smells were coming from. I even liked the way the throw pillows looked after we made the bed.
Even though I wouldn’t admit it, I knew she was right. Her way of living was better than mine.
While I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being a neat freak, I’m now a fairly hygienic and orderly fellow. I make the bed every day. I sweep the floor if it looks dirty. She doesn’t know this (until now), but sometimes I’ll even sweep off the couches a second or third time if the lines don’t look right to me.
I’m turning into her.
At my work, we took a personality inventory test a few years back called True Colors: you answer a bunch of questions, and then it tells you if you are a Green or an Orange or a Blue or a Gold. It was a lot of fun, and it’s actually quite helpful sometimes knowing different people’s colors so that you have an idea of how they operate.
But at the same time, tests like that seem to imply that we just are what we are. Oh, you’re a Blue? I guess it’s okay that you’re being a depressing turd today. Oh, you’re an Orange? Well, it makes sense that you forgot to do that project on time. A Gold? Oh, that explains why you keep incessantly critiquing other people.
It made it easy to chalk up our sins to personality traits. I did it too. I’m an Orange, so of course I’m impulsive and didn’t think that action all the way through and see how it would hurt your feelings and ruin your weekend. Oh well, that’s just who I am!
What my marriage has taught me is that while we each do have a color, a unique shade of personality and particular strengths and weaknesses, the whole point is to let your color bleed into the others. Being married to my wife (a Gold if there ever was one) hasn’t made me less Orange: I’m still a spontaneous person who reacts to the moment and values relationship over task. But I’ve also learned the beauty and goodness of being organized and ordered, dependable and focused, and for goodness’ sake, clean!
God gives each of us our gifts, but they don’t make sense on their own. They get their meaning when they attach to the whole, when the parts join the Body, when the colors wash together like a summer sunset, stopping all who see it and reminding them that there is something bigger than us all.
This is the call of the Christian. Add a splash of color to the world around you. And let others color your world too.