Our girls get excited every time we clean the house because they think that someone is coming to visit. “Are Jeff and Erika coming over?” they ask. No, we don’t clean the house for the Hayden’s any more. “Is Grandma coming?” No, that would require a much higher level of cleaning. “So, who is coming to visit?”
It’s at this point that I resist the temptation to explain that we need to clean the house because we share the space with two small animals who sometimes pretend to be little girls. Instead, I remind them that cleanliness is next to godliness – and if they clean their rooms we will walk over to DQ for a treat.
The reality is that sometimes the house just needs to be cleaned. Dust builds up and crumbs pile up and paper stacks up and the stuff of life generates a surprising amount of clutter that occasionally needs to be cleared so we can find the phone or the remote or some loose change lurking among the debris in the cracks of the couch.
And the reality is that we also need to regularly dust the cobwebs from our souls.
Confession is a powerful cleansing tool for spiritual housekeeping. However, I sense that sometimes we only use the tool of confession for the really big things – sexual sins take priority – and usually after we’ve been caught. But there is a place for confession in the course of regular spiritual house cleaning.
For me, the signs that spiritual clutter is piling up are often subtle. When I find myself slow to laugh and quick to get angry, when I realize that the usual things that I enjoy bring no pleasure and when I find that things like prayer and Bible reading and serving others have become chores – then I know it’s time to clean house. Not because someone is coming to visit or because I’ve been caught in some heinous act (like stealing loonies from Kiera’s piggy bank), but simply because it’s time to clean.
An honest conversation with a trusted friend, mentor or spiritual director; a focused time of fasting and praying; meditating on a Psalm; writing out a personal confession (and then burning it); finding a place of solitude in order to be still in God’s creation and presence – all these have served as cleansing agents in my life, recovering a sense of peace and order and restoring the freedom of God’s grace.
And so I pray today with the Psalmist:
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”