Cleaning my house and cleaning my soul can be a useful analogy for me as a housewife. Each day, I attempt to conquer, or maintain, a clean home. This conquest of orderliness within my home causes me to reflect upon the similarities between cleaning my home and cleaning my soul.
In creating a material world complete with spiritual realities, God has given us a beautiful opportunity to enfold spiritual goods within material goods. Should I be spending more, less, or equal time attending to the good of my soul as I do the good of my house?
Do I place a clean home or a clean soul first in order of intention throughout my day? Or better yet, if cleanliness is next to godliness, can both the spiritual and material be attended to at the same time?
I have read that housewives should consider an hour each day at minimum a reasonable timeframe to work on keeping a clean home. At first glance, this seems quite easy. Wash the dishes, put away laundry, etc. and the hour is done.
But then I remember: true “cleaning” can and should oftentimes go beyond the basics and under the rugs. Again, I relate this thought process to the state of my spiritual life. Do I go through the day just doing the basics, or do I really delve into the “deeper stuff” which can only be left alone for so long until the lack of effort becomes apparent?
In what ways is this analogy useful for us both physically and spiritually? First, the consistent upkeep of a home requires work and self-denial. Getting off the couch to vacuum requires a small, but daily conquering of self.
Perhaps no guests will be coming into my home anytime soon; is there really a need to vacuum, or will another week go by where no one notices the dusty carpets? Who cares really when it is just children who are eating and playing here day after day?
Cleaning for the sake of cleaning, or for self-satisfaction, may not be an easy task for all of us. Yet after making the initial effort to do so, oftentimes we are more energized and happier because of the enhanced sense of order around us.
Our children and spouse may be happier and more comfortable as well. In like manner, spiritual goals require work and self-sacrifice. Getting up before the children to have a consistent prayer time becomes increasingly difficult with the dark and cold winter mornings.
Sacrificing time out of my day to devote to the daily rosary, the Angelus, or morning and evening prayer can feel meaningless and monotonous. But at the end of the day, do we not have a greater peace and closeness to Christ? Do we not find ourselves thinking of Jesus more often and more lovingly when we actually schedule those moments of prayer into our day?
The Never-Ending Story
Secondly, cleaning is a never-ending goal. A clean home does not magically remain clean, as we all know. The piano will be dusty again a few days later. Honestly, this fact has intimidated me as a mother. I am often faced with the temptation to feel that my efforts are accomplishing nothing. I do not see the fruits of my labors for long.
But once I accept the home as my battlefield, where I will find both my work cut out for me, and my sanctification, then I can rise to the challenge with fortitude. Here within these walls is where I will meet Christ every day. Amidst daily messes I will grow in holiness and grow closer to eternity. In the same way, I often feel disenchanted with a daily prayer life that seems to produce no results.
Perhaps I am content and peaceful one day, and the next I am faced with my usual doubts and concerns. Comparing the experience of a prayer life with the experience of keeping an orderly home brings me back to reality.
Making the Effort
No, neither my house nor my soul will ever be perfectly clean (not on my own anyway)! One area may be tackled, and then on to the next tomorrow. By the time I conquer the new area, the old may be in need of attention yet again. It would be easy to give up on it all with such an outlook. Yet Christ reminds us that what matters is the effort, not the result.
Though I do not see a clean home, I know that I made the effort to wash the dishes today. The effort put into the work is good in itself, and God sees every effort put into our growth in virtue. And if I make that effort to focus on just one area of growth every day, or every week or month, I will learn how to do it well (just like I will learn to clean my house well if I keep at it).
We should always remind ourselves that Christ sees us bow our heads and plow through the long days. He hears the prayers on our lips as we seek patience in our words and actions. He knows just how dead tired we are at the end of the day. But if we ask Him to help us in certain areas, though it may be drudgery and work, we know that He will listen.
We know in our heart of hearts just how satisfying it is to work hard. This is true both physically and spiritually. The reward of truth, beauty and goodness is most sweet when we have truly earned it.
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