I’ve always liked the saying, “My house may not be clean, but my kids are happy.”
I took that to heart when my kids were young and I spent a lot of time with them. I’m not sure what my excuse is now. “My house may not be clean, but I’ve read a lot of books,” or, “My house may not be clean, but I’ve watched all the shows I recorded on the PVR.”
Just go on Facebook and you’ll find many articles on cleaning and reorganizing your house: things like finding unique storage spaces in the little cubbies under stair-treads, satirical articles on how to hide your mess away from guests’ eyes, or the Ikea commercial that asks why our bedroom doors are closed when we have visitors.
I confess that the latter struck home since there are a few piles of stuff that get moved from place to place when we have guests, most often from the dining room table to the bedroom and back again when it’s time for bed. Horror of horrors, does that mean I’m a hoarder who has trouble getting rid of things from my past, like the ribbons and tulle we used to decorate our wedding in 1994? Although they did come in handy at my daughter’s princess birthday party six years ago.
Or maybe my Mennonite frugality of saving re-useable bags and plastic containers for leftovers gets in the way of ridding my home of stuff! But I’ve always thought that if I can use something in the future, I should save it.
In such a setting, it’s daunting to figure out where to start the clean-up. If I start getting rid of what I don’t need upstairs, then take what I “need” to the storage room, only to find that it’s already full to brimming with stuff I haven’t used in years, should I start with the storage room instead? And if so, what if I get frustrated? When will I ever get upstairs?
Or what if I throw out the one thing I really should have kept and actually need? And once I’ve sorted and stored the stuff from the familiar piles on my dresser, will I be able to find these things in their new location?
What about my spiritual house? Do I have a storage room door that I close when guests are around? Do I clean up this house on a regular basis? There’s a song on the radio by Imagine Dragons, called “Demons,” that I find interesting because of the line, “Look into my eyes / it’s where my demons hide.” We all have things we hide and don’t want others to see. Even sins forgiven are not always forgotten, and make up part of the “stuff” we carry around in our inner storage room.
Lent is a time when we can work on cleaning our inner house. There are many articles and books on the spiritual disciplines of abstinence and of engagement that may be useful:
- Disciplines of abstinence are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to find space to better connect with God. These can include solitude, silence, fasting, honouring the sabbath, secrecy in our deeds and submission to our Lord.
- Disciplines of engagement are ways of connecting with God and other people in a loving and honest way. They include Bible reading, worship, prayer, soul friendship, personal reflection and service to others.
By engaging in these disciplines during Lent, we can clean out our spiritual house in preparation for Easter and new life in Christ.
Procrastinator that I am, this year during Lent I’m committing myself to spending 30 minutes each day cleaning up my spiritual house and 30 minutes cleaning up my actual house. With God’s help and guidance, I’m pretty sure I can do both and even get a head start on spring cleaning.
And most likely my kids will still be happy!
Ev Buhr is president of Alberta Women in Mission and office administrator at First Mennonite Church, Edmonton.