Labor of Love

One of the more intriguing effects of being in right relationship now with husband (or, at least, working on it!) is how easy it is to do certain things that hitherto had felt like chores, for example, making the bed.

All my life I have had a thing about making the bed. Growing up, I was a real terror to my friends when they would come over to play with me. Heaven forbid that they rumple the coverlet by even sitting on the bed, never mind leave the bed in the sort of disarray that ten-year-olds can (think jumping on the bed here). There I would be, anxiously smoothing out every wrinkle, begging them not to touch. I calmed down a bit as I got older, but I still remember worrying over the state of my comforter well into college. But once I started living with someone (boyfriend, husband #1, husband-for-life), things only got more fraught yet again.

If there were two of us sleeping in the bed, surely (or so I reasoned) we should take turns having to make it, right? Except that the men in my life rarely seemed to care quite as much about smoothing the wrinkles and evening the hang of the bedspread as did I. Sometimes (horrible to think!) they wouldn't even see the point of making the bed at all. "Why bother?", they apparently reasoned. "We're just going to mess it up again tonight." This was not a recipe for marital harmony, not in my book, anyway.

And so the years passed. I would get all quietly resentful about being left having to make the bed or, on the occasions when my husband would "help," feel anxiously critical about whether he was doing it right. Sometimes I would sniffily refuse even to make the bed, just to see how he liked it. But then he wouldn't make it either (why should he, when it wasn't clear from my behavior whether I cared?), and I would be left either frustrated by the sight of the sheets and coverlet in disarray or feeling put upon to make the bed myself.

Happily, miraculously, wonderfully, in the past two months, all this has changed. On the one hand, I no longer feel that making the bed is something that I have to do. I am happy to leave it rumpled and unmade all day, without even a twinge of OCD angst. And yet, on the other, I am also happy to make the bed; indeed, I look forward to it as a way of honoring the love that my husband and I have there shared (TMI? too bad; I've warned you about this already). And the best thing of all? As often as not, I come back from my morning shower to find that my husband has made the bed (perfectly, I should add), apparently out of the same joy that I feel.

On the one hand, the bed is now just a bed, not a challenge. And yet, on the other, as the place in which some of our most sacred activities take place, it is almost unthinkable not to take proper care of it. I'm wondering now whether this feeling is what stimulated medieval Christians to put such attention and care into the decoration of their altars and, by extension, their churches. Did I mention that my husband and I have spent the past several weeks cleaning and fixing things in our home? What matters, I now realize, is one's goal. There is a world of difference between keeping the house tidy so as to have a tidy house and keeping the house tidy because it is the place in which one lives with one's love. The one is fraught with frustration, while the other seems hardly a burden at all. It is as our Lord said: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30).

Even better, I no longer have any desire to have a house.

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