Recent conversations with our group has surprised me in that more than once the subject of housecleaning, home organizing, or home maintenance has come up and spoken about with avid interest. We all seem intrigued about the subject and always on the hunt for ideas from others on how we can better our own homes. After spending a good portion of today making bread and soup from scratch (feeling all “homemakery”, I am), it got me to thinking about all the time we put into our homes and maybe all the time we don’t as well. Recently I’ve been on a kick to “put my home in order” - I’ve been too busy/lazy for too many years to maintain a good schedule of necessary chores and tasks. I’m finding out that much of it has to do with my attitude about housework. In Shelter for the Spirit by Victoria Moran, she talks about what cleaning has to teach us:
Thich Nhat Hanh is a contemporary Buddhist monk…he is expert at finding the divine in the mundane. In his book Peace Is Every Step, he writes this of washing dishes: “I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!” (How like a monk, huh?)
Of course you and I aren’t monks. We don’t spend every day of our lives intently focused on realization of the divine. Precisely because we have so little time to concentrate on spiritual truth, it is all the more important for us to occasionally discover a little of that truth in a job we’d be doing anyway. In the everyday maintenance of our homes, we have the option of experiencing peace, contentment and that safe feeling of being part of something large and grand and good.
Victoria writes how with all the technology of our day, cleaning is really the only physical action some of us have on a given day. “Most of us work with our brains all day and live in our heads the rest of the time. We read and think, compute and reason. Cleaning is physical, nonintellectual, and devoid of supertechnology. It deals with rudimentary elements like water and elbow grease…Cleaning is definitely real and as old and as universal as praying.”
There are many reasons as to why we clean and organize and maintain, but a major one we all understand is because of our love for our family. We instinctively know that with every dish washed, every toy picked up, and every book placed back on the shelf, we create a haven for our family and ourselves. I would also hazard a guess that we know quite well in our heads but not so much in our hearts our acts of service are ultimately to be done for the Lord. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”1 Brother Lawrence2, a Carmelite monk who spent most of his life working in the kitchen of the priory had this to say: The most excellent method of going to God is that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing people but purely for the love of God.
If we can wrap our minds around the business of housekeeping as a “divine” act, maybe then our lives will be more enjoyable and more contented and our homes will be more livable (I speak for myself, of course!). “We can clean out of pride, compulsion and concern about how other people see us, or we can…clean out of love and respect for ourselves, our families, even for the Creator of an orderly universe.”3
It is a great delusion to think our times of prayer ought to differ from
other times. We are as strictly obliged to cleave to God by action in the time
of action as by prayer in the season of prayer.4
“The act of taking care of our homes brings comfort and consolation both in the enjoyment of the fruits of our labor and in the increasingly rare freedom to engage in worthwhile, unalienated, honorable work.”5 Can the mundane acts of housecleaning lead to a simpler (and more worshipful) life? We’ll discuss this on Friday at our group as well as discussing what is our ideal home environment. Thanks to Raluca for hosting last week and for the yummy banana bread and cookies provided. Location for this week will be emailed to everyone as soon as possible.
But in the mud and scum of things, there always, always something sings.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
1 Colossians 3:23,24
2 Best known for his book The Practice of the Presence of God
3 Page 99 in Shelter for the Spirit by Victoria Moran
4 Quotes from Brother Lawrence posted on www.PracticeGod’sPresence.com
5 From Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson