Maybe you’re in spring cleaning mode at home. Zion is.
Pastor Janine just oversaw the purging and relocating of stuff that had found a home in an unused classroom downstairs. A local non-profit possibly renting that room for office space helped motivate that spring cleaning. It’s also a continuation of Colleen and Ken’s work transforming the library upstairs.
At home, work, or church, spring cleaning of this magnitude involves more than one kind of labor. There is physical labor, of course—moving, hauling, cleaning, restoring. And there is emotional, relational, and spiritual labor.
- What needs to go?
- What can be given away?
- What, with a little love, could be given new life and purpose?
- Who also cares or has responsibility for these things? And how do we work and decide together?
A lot can hide in these questions and decisions.
The emotional labor is maybe most obvious after the death of a loved one or after a divorce or in anticipation of a loved one’s move to college or into a care facility. I suspect it’s always a factor and not just at times like these.
When it’s our stuff and not just my stuff, there’s relational work to do. Empathy and listening, negotiation and navigating disagreements. At my house, the emotional and the relational intersect. I am ruthless when it comes to things, while for Sara things exist within a robust web of feelings, memories, and relationships. A sense of humor has helped us keep the peace and keep from being overrun by stuff.
And there is spiritual labor too. A friend and colleague once committed to an intensive spiritual retreat. To prepare, he was given a nine-month plan, which included one month devoted to cleaning out a closet or storage room in his house. The spiritual practice was to give attention to what he had overlooked or ignored—either a problem and his contribution to the problem or a future and a possibility he hadn’t considered.
The well-known Ecclesiastes 3 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: …a time to keep, and a time to throw away…” It is wisdom that discerns what time it is. Wisdom knows what to hold on to and what to let go of. How to hold gently. How really to let go.
An empty tomb the Easter promise. The resurrection’s image is emptiness. And the outcome of successful spring cleaning is also emptiness. An empty room. Or at least a room with more room. Am I crazy or is there some small but meaningful thread that connects the two? Easter and spring cleaning?
Emptiness is not exactly cleanliness. I wouldn’t give too much credence to John Wesley’s assertion that “Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.” Because after all, Jesus found himself in hot water by violating codes on cleanliness and purity.
On the other hand, the emptiness of a newly spring-cleaned room is like a blank slate. Full of nothing but possibility. Potential. Even hope. Expectation. Relief. Not to make too much of it.
Some of us pray while knitting a shawl or making a quilt. So spring cleaning can be a prayerful activity too.
In another common funeral scripture, Jesus says, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
Spring cleaning is all about preparing a place. Jesus does it, so we can too. Who- and whatever we prepare a place for, we get do it for Jesus’ sake, with his help, with hope in his resurrection, and trusting that we are and will be at rest in him.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith