By LIBBO CROSSWHITE
The car seat diaries
There are only a handful of people on Earth who’ve seen what a literal mess I am. (Plenty more have gotten to witness the more abstract version of the mess.) Cleaning has never, ever remotely been a passion or spiritual gift of mine.
This seems to be a trait that I’ve passed on to my children. I’m always slightly embarrassed at carpool drop-off. What will fall out of the car today? A half-eaten Pop Tart, one of Russell’s smelly shoes or one of Mary’s 5,000 drawings are just a few of the less disgusting options.
I decided this school year I would try to keep one area of my life a little less insane, and have been diligent about cleaning out my car. I’ve been making a fun trip out of going to the carwash for the family — vacuuming out each week, scrubbing the seats and teaching my children to take pride in the car that takes us everywhere and keeps us safe.
I have done a relatively good job, so much so that one evening when a group of our friends were headed to dinner, I was eager to offer my car as an option.
Until I remembered I would need to take car seats out.
In my haste of trying to keep a clean car, I’d never taken the time to go deeper and uncover the real mess. And now I had about 20 minutes before our car was going to be full of functioning adults who would NOT want to sit on old Froot Loops that had somehow melted into the leather. Taking off the seats revealed an entirely new cesspool of unmentionable gunk.
After many, many Clorox wipes, a handheld vacuum and a fair amount of sweat, the mess was less disgusting. When our friends arrived, I had the air blowing high and the music up loud to distract from what was now permanently part of our seats.
I had been driving around for months thinking I was fine, because I didn’t want to go deeper. There were messes I probably knew deep down were there, but I didn’t want to address. And yes, it’s the mess of my car, but that’s also my life. I can easily fool myself into thinking I’m “OK” and turn on autopilot mode.
There are so many ways in which the Word of God has transformed me in the last 10 years, when I finally didn’t let it intimidate me and saw it for what it was: Life, in written form. There is so much beauty and joy to be found in the way God formed creation, and the way Jesus lived and died and was resurrected on our behalf, and how He interacted with people in the New Testament as He does now and will continue to do.
One story that continues to transform my way of living is found in the book of John. We see Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus, and as Jesus calls Lazarus back to life, He tells him to “take off the grave clothes.” A beautiful image for all of us — that we may live in the light of Christ instead of our dead life before we knew Him.
For me, this story — like so many others in the gospels — speaks to our need to go deeper than the surface, to allow Jesus into our deepest messes. The ones we are carrying around and just covering with car seats that we clean all around, but they’re truly rotting from the inside out. And maybe we’re terrified of what cleaning up those messes might mean.
But I find hope in what Jesus says to Lazarus’ sister after she warns Him not to go into the tomb because of the odor (I might have given this same warning before when someone enters my car or home): “Did I not tell you if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Maybe our darkest messes are what will allow us to see the glory of God. It’s not the shiny part that we try to keep clean and looking good that God really wants. He wants what’s under the car seats, the part we hope no one ever sees.
Yep, God wants our mess — our grave clothes — so we may walk out of darkness into light and from death to life!
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Madison and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 5 years old and a son, Russell, who is 3 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison- Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.