I was one of those lucky kids who had chores assigned each week. And, on top of that, I was blessed with a mother who actually kept track of whether or not I did those chores. (Thanks, Mom!) As a kid, when I did my chores, I was basically attempting to get the visible surfaces clean enough for it to pass muster with my mom. Especially with dusting. I hated dusting. Still do. My bad childhood habits have followed be into adulthood. Now that I have a home of my own, I often find myself doing the “surface clean” – just before guests come over, at nap time to preserve my sanity, etc. I just want it to look “good enough.” It’s clean, but not really clean.
But there are some days when my alter ego takes over, and deep cleaning begins. It’s a train that’s hard to stop. This, too, started in childhood when I discovered that the tip of the nail file was just the right size to clean in the crack between the counter tops and the metal piece around its edge. I thought my mom would be mad about what I was doing; she thanked me instead. (I’m not sure if it was one of those “aw thank you for helping, honey” moments, or if she really was glad for what I was doing.) My mother would probably tell you it started even before that. When I was just a toddler I discovered sock lint between my toes, and thereafter, I had to do a careful inspection for said lint any time my socks were off. Can’t leave it there, right?
I resist the term “neat freak.” Quite frankly, I don’t have time for that in my life. It’s more like organized chaos. If you’ve been to my house, especially in the last year, you know that’s the truth. My house hovers between looking like a semi-organized Fisher Price liquidation center and somewhere that a bomb just went off. With two little ones, I barely keep the clutter at bay, let alone go for the deep cleaning to get all the dirt that is hiding IN PLAIN SIGHT.
It’s almost discouraging to do this deep cleaning, because I find SO. MUCH. DIRT. Dirt I wasn’t even aware existed, but that I was walking by every day. Yuck. In one of those moments when the deep clean freak had taken over, I thought of how often I clean the surface of my life without taking the time to inspect the deeper places of my heart that need to be cleaned. Jesus did not have good things to say about this practice. He called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” looking pretty on the outside but full of “everything dead” on the inside (Matthew 23:27). He also accused them of only washing the outside of the cup and dish in an earlier verse (25). And how gross is that? Just think if you only washed the outside of your cup. Everyday. Day after day. What would be growing there?! Oh my! Yet, how many times do I let this level of clean be acceptable in my heart. I say a quick prayer, “I’m sorry, Lord, I lost it again…” without truly examining myself, looking for the root of the issue, so that I can turn from it in true repentance.
While I don’t think God rejects the quick “I’m sorry, Lord” prayer, if that’s the only type of repenting or heart “cleaning” that I do, then the junk is going to pile up quickly in the deep places. I know my junk is there. The aforementioned cluttered house, I’m sure, reveals that I don’t have abundant spare time these days. Sometimes taking time out for the Lord, to sit quietly before him and inspect my heart, gets pushed to the back burner. Just being totally transparent. On a good day, I get a chapter of the Bible read, rather quickly, almost always while something else is going on. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s not the type of environment where I can look deep into my heart. Other times, it just hits me. Conviction: This is not the right way to act. Actually, it hits me a lot more often than I’d like to admit. But the question is — how to respond to that moment of conviction? Will I say the quick “I’m sorry, Lord” or will I make time and space for a meaningful change to happen in my heart?
As I have prayed over this issue and asked God to show me areas that need “cleaning,” He has mercifully shown me places that have that deeply rooted dirt and grime that requires an entire box of baking soda and all the vinegar you have. I’m judgmental. I’m selfish. I’m apathetic. There are so many hurting people in this world, and all I can focus on most days is my family and myself and making sure we are all good. While I do think that falls under my job description as mommy of this family, I don’t think that’s a license for complete neglect of everyone else out there who’s hurting and needy. You know, it’s a mindset shift. Am I only focused on me? Or am I able to turn my eyes outward to see others who are in need? I need to be compassionate instead of judgmental. I need to serve instead of being selfish. I need love instead of apathy. (Just to name a few.) Oh, Jesus, clean my heart in the deep places so that the grime is gone and I can love like you! Open my eyes to see people who need my compassion, my service, my love.