Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
One of my least favorite things to hear as a kid were the often spoken words of my mom, “Clean your room”. Oh, the terror of those three words! Each time I was given the task of straightening up a room that looked as if it had been hit by a tornado, there had to have been a hundred other things that came to mind that I would rather be doing. Cleaning my room was a process made longer than it needed to be by a predictable pattern that usually began with my arguments as to why today was not the best day for it. But like any good mother, my mom would insist that cleaning was to remain at the top of my list for the day and only afterward would I be allowed my freedom. Once the arguments were settled and it was clear that once again my mother had won them, the second stage of the process began. This stage consisted in sitting down to look at the room without doing anything. It was during this stage that I considered the sheer magnitude of the mess that had been made and despaired that there would never be enough hours in the day to finish the task with time left over to go outside and play. Eventually the truth would sink in that the room was not going to clean itself and I would move on to the next stage of cleaning in which I focused on moving things around and shifting piles of clothes from one side of the room to the other. It didn’t accomplish very much, but at least I felt like I was doing something. At some point during the process I would ask my mom if I had cleaned enough to be released from my imprisonment. This would be denied and it was at this point when she would typically give some advice, such as that simply shoving everything under the bed was a poor strategy. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, and often with some assistance from my mom, the room was organized and clean.
As I think back to my childhood struggles to complete the chore of cleaning my room, I can’t help but notice that the struggles in our spiritual lives are often somewhat similar. Little by little we can let our spiritual life become unorganized and cluttered and eventually we can even become accustomed to living in chaos. Then when God or someone else reminds us that we need to clean up our act, our first response can be to argue that we have better things to do with our time at the moment, that we will get to it later. Since God usually wins these kinds of arguments, we ultimately relent and decide to start working on the things in our spiritual life that need to be improved. But where to begin, we might think as we look at the huge task before us. Perhaps we begin by simply shifting things around, not really making any big changes that sink below the surface. Most of us are pretty good at convincing ourselves that if we keep this up, eventually our problems might just go away on their own. Hopefully at some point we turn to prayer and begin to listen to God’s advice on ways to better organize our life. If we’re smart, we might even ask for his help in the process.
It’s helpful to remember that even when our spiritual lives have become a complete mess, we have the power with God’s help, to slowly put them back into good order. It just takes making the choice to straighten things up one small piece at a time.