Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Clean Houses and Clean Hearts

We had out of town family company over today, so I have spent the past few days marathon cleaning and trying to get ready, since they have never seen our house and of course got the full tour (including all the little areas you use to throw stuff into when regular company is coming!) So last night, as I once again took stacks of books and papers and piled them up in my laundry room (the one place I will not let anyone see) I was reminded of what my mother used to say. She would come in my room as a teenager to inspect my room. On the surface the room would look nice, organized, nothing in the floor. The first thing mom would do is walk over to my desk and open a drawer. Of course, the drawer was usually so crammed full of "important stuff" that it almost would not open. My mother would look at me and say,

"The state of your closets and drawers is a reflection of the state of your heart and soul."

I don't know where she got that from, but she would always say it with a concerned look on her face. I did not understand what she meant by that then (I mean, come on mom, it's just a messy drawer!), but I think I am beginning to grasp her meaning now. This hit home earlier this year too with another Orthodox tradition. At the first of the year, after Theophany (celebration of the baptism of Christ) and the blessing of the waters the priest makes his rounds to each family in the church to bless their home. I was cleaning the house for his visit and realized there was no where to hide my mess. He enters every space to anoint it for good and holy use. I felt very vulnerable as I prepared for his visit this year. So often we focus our time on the exterior, creating the facade that others will see - whether it be our physical appearance, clothing, the smile on our face, or the perfect cleanliness of our home. We create an image we present to others, which looks good on the outside, but really all the junk and ugliness is not gone, it is just crammed into a drawer or closet (or heart). It brings to mind the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. The one looked and acted as he was supposed to, and yet his heart was not yearning for God. The other was a mess, yet acknowledged the mess and begged for mercy. We can throw our junk into junk drawers and hide it in closets when company comes, but we cannot hide our "junk" from God. We can choose to hold on to it, and hide it from others and pretend He does not see it, or we can pray for mercy and let Him help us clean it up. And if we are willing to pretend that our home is clean, then we are probably willing to pretend that our heart is clean too, rather than endure the pain and effort of striving to clean it. I guess that is where that old phrase "Cleanliness is next to godliness" comes from?


Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

And thank the Lord for His boundless Grace, too, that is there when we find that no matter how hard we try, the messes never really get cleaned up!

Anna said...

Amen sister! Have you ever read The Quotidian Mysteries? (see sidebar) It was written by a catholic woman, but she does a beautiful job of addressing the issue of endless cleaning, and the fact that we can never finish, and that is okay, that is a part of our journey, and a way to grow in our faith instead of getting depressed that we can never keep the house clean etc. She talks about all the opportunities through the day for prayer that we often fill instead with TV or other distractions. I think it is one of the greatest little books for lifting ones spirits, especially stay at home moms! Our job never ends, and we will never catch up, and knowing that can bring us down, or can be a relief. It is a must read!

Erin said...

I think most of all, we like to hide our messes from ourselves. So, I think the secret is, to be honest about them to ourselves first. Then, when we are willing to see them, we'll be willing to let others see them, and then to give them to God. BUT - when we get to those nasty little corners in our souls, guess what? Usually we find that God is already there! This is a major lesson of the last four or five years of my life - honesty about my own junk and brokenness and mess. This is especially hard for Southerners, I think!!! But it's so worth it. Thanks for this post. Just what I needed this morning.