No, this is not some silly pseudo-religious practice, and I am not planning to bring marbles to church on Sunday. I’m trying to think outside the religious box I’ve built for myself, but not THAT far outside it.
Today I spent part of the afternoon helping my 10-year-old sort out some of his prized possessions. Do you remember being 10? I do. I remember having a LOT of special things, some of which looked (to the untrained eye) suspiciously like junk. I knew what it all was, though, and being a 5th-grader didn’t mean I valued my things any less than adults value their prized possessions (which, if we’re honest, sometimes also look suspiciously like junk).
Buddy is no exception. His room abounds with the usual flotsam typical of boys his age – matchbox cars, plastic spiders, random coins lost from his weekly allowance, and pencil drawings of machines and many-eyed monsters wodged into every possible corner of his bookshelf. However, like many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, his highly focused interests are evident in his room as well. The reptile phase is represented by a menagerie of toy snakes, lizards, dragons, and a creepily jointed wooden alligator that gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I have to touch it. The interest in shipwrecks is evident in the wooden ships and an ancient key that actually came from a REAL shipwreck (and thus led to a collection of keys). The “metal collection” is dozens of little bits of scrap metal and pop tabs from soda cans. The gem and mineral phases are both still going strong. His collection includes everything from playground gravel to an actual diamond, so tiny it’s practically invisible, in a little plastic case.
OK, now take all those things, put them in an average-sized bedroom with an impressive book collection and several dirty socks, and shake the whole thing really hard, and you’ll have some idea of what Buddy and I were facing.
I finally realized that “put your lizard away” has no meaning if every possible surface is already covered with lizards. For everything to be put in its place, everything needs to have a place. So Buddy and I are spending fifteen minutes a day (sometimes 45, but don’t tell him that) working on his room. We’re taking it slow – one shelf, one drawer, one corner at a time.
This afternoon’s labors resulted in a small cupboard reorganized, its three shelves emptied and wiped clean of fool’s gold dust, stray paper clips, and I kinda don’t want to know what was in that one corner. We set it back up with homes for the rock collection, the metal collection (now safely in a cardboard box where it can’t accidentally stab anybody), and the Transformers, who now live in peaceful plastic harmony behind a cupboard door that actually shuts.
I also had the bright idea of using a bamboo silverware organizer (fifteen bucks, renewable resource, yay!) to keep all the little odds and ends in their right places. It now holds the keys, the pencils, the string, the logic puzzles, a small family of plastic snakes, and the marbles. It was at this point that the project started looking oddly like worship.
I’ve heard it said that God is a God of order, usually when Person A is trying to guilt Smaller Person B into cleaning their room. I think it’s true, though. Say what you will about chaos theory and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (and I think God lives there too, which is another conversation for another day), but I believe God does value order. This is perhaps why there is an innate satisfaction in having finished a project, cleared some space, Cleaned All The Things.
I’m still getting a handle on this whole concept of every day and every action having the potential to be holy – sacramental living, I think it’s called. But if putting marbles in their little bamboo box makes me think of God and star systems and the periodic table of elements, then I suspect I’m on the right track.