Unstable Domesticity

From a 1950’s advertisement

Yeah, yeah, I know, when you hear that word “domesticity” this is what comes to mind, or perhaps The Stepford Wives bounces around in your head.  In short, when we hear that word, it tends to have negative connotations because of the whole “cult of domesticity” thing, where women are treated like fragile flowers and pushed into roles of subservience.

That said, we need to repackage the word a little, because I want to share with you what can be the most unsettling thing about my whole process to ordination–the fact that from week to week, month to month, the ordinary routines of life are constantly changing.

Domesticity can also simply mean the sum total of the mundane things that makes up what any of us would call “our home life.”  Now, granted, my home life, at first glance, might not seem typical, or ideal, or even all that interesting.  Some might say my home life is devoid of a home life because I live alone.  (That’s not true, of course, but some would say it.)

But before I had this process I had a fairly unchanging home life.  I went to work.  I came home.  I cooked my supper, watched a little TV, played on the computer a little, played with the dogs, walked the dogs, puttered around and went to bed.  On Saturdays I sometimes had breakfast with friends, or puttered around the yard.  Before the church came into my life, there was a lot of golf on Sundays (and Saturdays, too.)  I had a very predictable routine to my life.

When the church came into my life, it created some new routines, but they quickly became routines.  “The process,” however, seems specifically designed to upend every routine one might have had in his or her life.  I might have a routine but it might only be for a few weeks or months, and then poof, it changes again.

I think the part I’ve come to dearly miss about those old routines is that it created very predictable ways I encountered other human beings, and as a person living alone, I particularly came to savor those times.  Now, I think one can be partnered and still experience this.  This is not something merely going out and getting a partner would “fix.”  But I do think for the habitually single, those encounters are more important for our mental health, since there are no ready made encounters at home.  I’ll also concede that “the process” messes with spousal relationships in its own way.

I remember when I first started cogitating on this.  It was back when I was remodeling my house.  For several months solid, I’d have the contractors out at the house or in the yard most mornings, and I’d leave for work, and say, “See y’all later.”  They’d say, “Have a good day at work.”  I came to dearly love being told “Have a good day at work.”  That was not a part of my “normal” existence, and I grew attached to that tiny, mundane moment of life–and it buoyed my spirits in a way that is hard to describe.

You see, the most important things I’ve learned about love are the things that hide in the mundane details of living.  I would never have seen those things in a partnered relationship.  But the greatest value is that I see how faith communities should never overlook the mundane in our relationships with one another.  That’s not to say that some day I might have use of this knowledge in a romantic relationship, but it’s value is so far, far greater than only that.

The most difficult dynamic in this whole process is that the constant change and the lack of much that becomes routine for any length of time, makes it hard to see all those little ordinary things in life that constantly remind me that love is always present in our broken world.  I can get a little whiny and needy when I haven’t had a dose of mundane kindness.  I can wear my friends out at times when I get on a run of feeling unsettled.  I can become sad and feel a false despair.  I don’t really have any answers to that right now, but it does tell me that people in this process–especially people who are formed in place–need mundane expressions of everyday love.  When I expand that notion, pretty much anyone who’s feeling unsettled about almost anything need those expressions too.

How will I learn to be a channel for this precious commodity of mundane everyday love?  I believe I will, in time, but entering into the discernment of this seems crucial to my life and ministry.


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