Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Cleaning The Soul

The dictionary defines "spring cleaning" as a noun,
"a thorough cleaning, especially of a residence when winter is over".

Lots of people "spring clean" their homes when winter is gone and the world is full of beautiful colors after a long season of lifeless trees and dirty, murky snow puddles. They clean out the cobwebs, yes ... they sweep and mops the floors, even getting into the corners which may or may not have been neglected during the dreary cold of winter. But many people also see spring as a perfect time for de-cluttering the home. Junk drawers are searched with a vengeance, closets are cleaned, sorted and reorganized. Bags and boxes of garbage and useless items are hauled out to the trash or given away. But what about the mind? Do we ever truly just sit back and clean it out?

I like to. It isn't always in the calendar spring, but it's when I've lived through a long spiritual winter, one where I have perhaps not grown and lived spiritually as I should have. One where I have gone through trials and hard times. A time when my Bible may have collected cobwebs, and the rooms of my heart become cluttered and dusty while my mind clings to memories of past springs or autumns when times were warmer, happier, and I neglected to visit the cold rooms of my heart. But in the spring, when beauty begins to show again and the days are filled with blooms and the simpler challenges of life? It's time. It's time to clear out the clutter that has filled the junk drawers, time to bag up all the garbage and hand it to The One who promises to get it to the dump for me.

So I'm cleaning today, heading into my soul where the rooms of my heart are locked safely away, windows barred against the cold of the winter. Today I'm throwing open the windows to let in fresh light, leaving the doors open to allow fresh air inside, and taking a deep cleansing breath as the ceiling fans stir up the stale air and mix it with the clean scent of spring.

"Alone in the house, the woman works. The radio is off, the television is silent, but her thoughts keep her company as she completes each task. Some of these tasks are harder than she expected, but she faithfully finishes each one, moving on to the next and the next ... determined to get the job done, to get the house cleaned.

She will soon leave the warmth and comfort of the front room, heading into the recesses of the house, the rooms she hasn't seen all winter long. Throughout the winter, she has rested in that front room, the one with the fireplace, the one where all the best things are stored for everyday use. Throughout the winter, she has not entered even the hallway that leads to the dusty dirty things that are kept out of sight in room little used and rarely seen. But today ... today there are the tiniest buds of life on the dead trees in the yard, there are little green dots on the ground where new grass is beginning to poke through the dark soil that been dormant throughout the cold of the winter season. Soon there will be flowers blooming and butterflies floating busily in the breeze. And when those summer days come, she will sit on the porch and enjoy the beauty that surrounds her ... but right now, there is a job to do.

Outside, the house appears strong, sturdy. The door is solid, heavy, and the windows are locked tight. There is even a sign in the yard from long ago, advertising the God who built the house, who said He would protect it and offered her a warranty. He promised that should there be any problems with the house, she need only call and He would be right there to fix the problem no matter how big, no matter how small. In the past weeks, she has already begun the process of fixing up the house after it sat suffering, uncared for in the winter. She has been calling the Builder, she has been telling Him about the various cracks she has found in the foundation of the house. She has discussed with Him the water spots that have appeared on the ceilings due to the weight of the winter snow resting on the old roof. And faithfully, just as promised, He has begun the process of fixing everything, even the doorknob that has begun to stick occasionally due to lack of use. It has been a long time since she had company in the house, a long time since she has let anyone come further than the patio furniture on the porch. But she has plans for the summer, visions of inviting people to come in and see the good work He has done in her home.

Inside, though, is another story. She has not always reported every flaw on the inside. She has not always told Him when she accidentally knocked a hole in the wall ... Often she has attempted clumsily to fix things on her own, using cheap solutions and painting over the ugly places. But He is coming over today, He has offered to help her go through the dust-filled rooms of the house and take full inventory of the repairs that need to be performed by The Expert. He has offered to take stock of the messy places where she tried to fix things on her own, to undo her clumsiness and truly, expertly, repair the many flaws that steal from the beauty of her home. She is afraid because she knows He will see the boxes of junk that she has allowed to pile up in the house, He will see the things she has collected over the years. What if He doesn't like what she has done during the time she has lived in the house He built for her? All the same, she knows His kindness, that He will gently point out to her the flaws, that He will offer to be the strength required to fix the things that have gone wrong. That he will happily carry out the things she may have collected that He would not approve of. And she rests in the comfort of His assistance, the safety of His wisdom. He knows far better than she does how to build and keep a lovely home.

Still, there is fear other than His potential disapproval ... What if someone should wander by on the sidewalk outside the house?! What if they should happen to curiously look inside the window while she sits on the dusty floor beside Him, showing Him all the useless trinkets and hateful reminders that are hidden from view in the boxes in the back room?! What if a neighbor should see, and be so disgusted by her filth and ugliness that the fragile friendships are destroyed and she is left alone in the world to live with only herself?

"'Shh,' he whispers, walking in through the front door that she has left standing open. 'You needn't be afraid, for I am with you. I will protect you as I have protected your home all these years. I have brought my own boxes with which to carry out your refuse, and no one will see if you don't want them to. But then, how can they admire and appreciate what work we have put into this house ... if you hide from them all of the progress?'

She agrees, and feels suddenly calm. She begins to realize the truth of how she feels ... what truly matters is His approval. Even should the neighbors see the flawed inside of her home, even should they completely separate themselves from her ... He will be there, and she can never be alone. He has even loved her enough in the past to check on her when she refused to call, to knock on the door when He knew she was hiding. Security flows through her, and she opens one window, throwing the curtain aside. Then she opens another, and another, breathing in the early spring air that rushes in with the breeze. There is a chill, but she knows it will feel good once the work is started and the effort makes her skin begin to bead with sweat.

Uncertain, she turns to look at Him, and He nods, His eyes telling her that she is safe, that even if the house is thrown open wide, He is there to protect her. Even if something should go horribly awry, He is there and she is safe. Holding that knowledge to her breast, she heads to the darkened entrance of the hallway which stands in stark contrast to the Son which fills her living room with light."

Sometimes cleaning things out can be embarrassing. The thought of someone seeing all the things you wish you'd never collected (like your Hanson CD's or the size of your "Aunt Flo" underwear) can be terrifying enough to cause you to pack those things away in a box and stuff it in the back of the closet. Sometimes the thought of someone finding those things and knowing that they once belonged to you is so nerve-wracking that you can't throw out the box even if you have sealed it with an entire roll of duct tape first. Sometimes it can be downright creepy. What if you open a box marked "miscellaneous" thinking that there could be some lost treasure in there ... but when you lift the flaps of the box, roaches come pouring out, joyous at the opportunity spread to spread their filth throughout the room. But that's why you bomb the entire house first, just to be sure. At least then, whatever nasties you find are already dead when you get started, and all you need to do is vacuum them up as you go. But still the job must be completed, the show must go on ... because eventually what you will have if you continue holding on to all that junk from the past, is a room that is so full of useless boxes that you can't use the room at all. Maybe when you clear out the boxes, you can turn it into a guest room ... a comfy place in which to invite others to share your home and the intimate parts of your life. Maybe when you clear out the boxes, you can shine up the pine floors, lay down a warm soft rug, and fill the room with flowers and light. Maybe once you have loved that room and made it beautiful, you can share it with those around you. And if you tell them how ugly that room once was and just how far it has come in order to be so lovely, maybe they will be inspired to call The Builder to help clean up their rooms too.