When the husband of an author writes a review of his wife’s book he needs to be careful. He must take care not to over promote his wife, for fear of being clearly biased, whilst being careful also not to be too critical, for fear of being made to sleep in the laundry room on half rations. There’s a fine line to tread here. So, with great care I’d say The Ministry of Messy House is an exceedingly good book, everyone should read it, if they want. Why? Because it highlights the continuing mess we live in (at the vicarage) and how God uses all the mess for His glory and for our growth as followers of Christ.
In her humorous introduction, Amanda draws the reader into The Ministry of a Messy House by promising an antidote to the culture of self-help perfectionism and domestic godessness. She achieves her aim by mixing theological application and reflection with self-deprecating humour and gritty/messy/dusty realism. Her argument is that:
- God made a very good world, the cosmos.
- Chaos or mess resulted from the fall.
- Therefore, the continuous hard work of cleaning dusty skirting boards and piles of laundry is inevitable.
- We all know what a perfectly ordered house/family/church/community would look like and can/should strive for it.
- Some people are naturally tidy and others struggle to keep things in order.
- Whether or not our tidy gene is strong or evidently absent, mess always exists.
- God, however, has revealed his grace and love through the death and resurrection of Christ for sinners.
- God is sovereign, and the mess exists by his providence.
- Therefore, living in the mess is God’s way of growing his people in dependence on him and love for one another as we practice grace and the ministry of his word in all the mess.
The book is a light hearted and joyful application of these great truths to life in the mess. It’s the first IVP publication with illustrations, drawn by the highly creative Ian Mitchell. Amanda starts reflecting on “Messy me” then moves outwards in concentric circles to the house, family, kids, church, community, meals and celebrations.
The illustrations of applied theology are drawn from Amanda’s life overseas and in the UK, and the majority reveal, quite unashamedly, the mess we make of life in the vicarage and how God works through the mess not in spite of it. None of the stories make the reader feel got at, rather encouraged to greater understanding, patience, grace, love and cooperation, modelling the grace of God in Christ to sinners in the mess. Amanda managed to write lots about herself, me and our kids without ever being threatened with a night sleeping in a laundry room herself.
Oh, and one more thing. Amanda has never had much time for me quoting her the Puritans. She had someone do that at university which was enough for her lifetime. Thankfully, something must have sunk in as she quotes some great puritan illustrations on providence. Happy reading.