I must admit I’m not a very thorough housekeeper. As long as things are reasonably organized and superficially clean, I’m satisfied. Though I have a horror of clutter, I tend to neglect ceiling fans and baseboards and the rather out-of-the-way areas that a more conscientious cleaner might maintain well-dusted and well-scrubbed.
But I’m indebted to an elderly woman in England for reminding me of the importance of sweeping the places no one sees.
Early one morning on a recent trip to England, I looked down from my bedroom window and spotted a small gray-haired woman slowly and meticulously sweeping the concrete slab in front of her home. The street was lined with row houses and this particular woman had basement rooms, just below street level, so that you would actually have to lean over the railing to see her front porch.
Why, I wondered, would anyone wake up so early in the morning to sweep a place so inconspicuous, so out of the way … a place that no one ever really sees?
Perhaps she was expecting a special guest. Perhaps she was obsessive-compulsive and couldn’t rest knowing that her porch remained unswept.
Whatever her reasons, it struck me that I, too, have unswept places that no one sees. Often I’m so busy fixing and cleaning the more obvious places that I don’t take time for the places that only God and I see. Perhaps it should be the other way around: perhaps if I started with the secret places in my heart, then some of the more obvious places would take care of themselves.
Later that day I happened to glance out my window and saw an elderly gentleman arrive at the woman’s doorstep, flowers in hand. “Mystery solved!” Love is a powerful motivator. And love, too, should motivate us to rise early in the morning, to sweep out the inmost places through communion with God, getting everything straightened out before the “day-to-day” has a chance to introduce its dust and grime into our lives. This is our most important function of the day.
“Come to God often just to sit in His presence and renew yourself, ” wrote Archbishop Francois Fenelon in the 17th century, “for nothing is as important as lowliness of heart, and detachment from your own opinion and will.”
Lord, be the Great Exterminator in my life. Brandish the spiritual “fumigator” and rid me of the things that shouldn’t be there: the fears that stare out at me from dark corners like a spider in her web; the doubts that cower in the corners like pale and frightened mice; the anger curled up tightly, waiting to release its venom at the least provocation. Let your Spirit sweep through even the darkest places of my soul. Amen.