Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Keeping House

While staying with my cousin in New York City this past weekend, I spotted a book on her shelves about the science of housekeeping. Not being a disciplined housekeeper myself, I decided it could only help me to glean some tips from this expert who had turned sparkling bathrooms and swept floors into a scientific formula. Within a few pages, her simple message was made clear: Keep After It.

The author recommended spending a few minutes in the morning and again at night straightening the home as a matter of routine. She laid out her Law of Housekeeping: a clean place is more likely to remain clean. Once clutter has begun, it too easily gains momentum. She cited a hallway chair in her home that had remained clutter-free for the previous six months. Then one morning she left a book and a sweater on it. By evening, toys, magazines, tools, etc. had accumulated in a pile atop of her original items. Clutter begets clutter, she cautioned.

Once-a-week cleaning is a must. All washable floors should be mopped once a week. Every surface should be vacuumed, including lampshades and corner cobwebs (although I must admit it is a stretch of the imagination that any cobweb would dare to form in this lady's home.) All appliances should be shined and countertops cleared and scrubbed. Mattresses and pillows should be aired weekly as well.

Oh, boy. I shut the book with a guilty slap. Most of my housecleaning gets done in the hour before guests arrive. I prefer to entertain in the evenings, because dark hides dirt. Someday when I replace the carpet in my living room, it will be the exact color of the dirt in our front yard. (The previous owners of our home carpeted our entire home in off-white. She must have had a maid.)

Just like housework, our spiritual lives can also benefit from the housekeeping law Mrs. Clean set out for her readers. Keep after it. A great biblical example of letting things go and consequently letting them grow is the story of David's sin. His first mistake was to allow his gaze to linger over the beautiful woman bathing on the rooftop below. Then he sent for her and engaged in extra-marital sex while her husband was off at war. Later finding Bathsheba pregnant, he set the wheels in motion to have her husband called home to hopefully sleep with his wife. When this plot failed, David eventually arranged to have the husband killed in battle. One sin necessitated another to avoid consequences. Like the author's hallway chair, soon a pile of trash existed on top of the original offense. The consequences were grave indeed. Bathsheba's baby died as a punishment for David's sin.

What if David had seen the woman and quickly turned away? What if he had prayed for strength to remain sin-free in that moment? Much heartache and trouble would have been avoided. Clutter begets clutter. And sin begets sin.

Jim Elliot, martyred missionary, spent the early hours each day in his young life in Bible study and prayer. That would have satisfied most of us in our spiritual life requirements. Yet at lunchtime, Jim would again spend time in the Word and prayer. Why? He felt his heart had grown cold during the hours he had labored in his job.

It is so much easier to recover from a little slip than from a free-fall. The Holy Spirit prompts us immediately when we sin. That conviction should lead us to instant repentance. Yet too often I ignore the nudge. I rationalize, I excuse. And soon I find myself with a pile of clutter, making an easier fix impossible.

Paul had written the Corinthians about sin in their midst. Though the initial confrontation was painful, the Corinthians responded with godly zeal. Paul told them later on, "Though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it... now I rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance." (2 Cor 7:8).

We have been given everything we need in order to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3). The Holy Spirit, prompting and teaching us as we live, is a huge part of this provision. Staying tuned in to His guidance will go a long way towards preventative maintenance. Jim Elliot had the right idea. Turning our hearts toward God in prayer and immersing ourselves in Scripture renews our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's prodding. Only when our hearts are tuned in to Him can we hope to keep sin at bay.

This post is an article from the Dogwood Digest, a free weekly devotional newsletter. If you would like to subscribe and receive this email on Tuesday mornings, use the link in the right hand column. Thanks!


Van said...

HI Friend Julie, I like coming over to read your words of wisdom and life. I especially liked what you had to say on my blog last week - about waiting. I hopw I can quote you next month in a radio interview I am goingto be doing on waiting???

Stacey said...

Hi Julie, new to your blog, but will be returning. Very
insightful! While reading, I was taken to a scripture that has impacted my life, Matthew 12:43 - 46.

Zoe said...

I always enjoy your wise and wonderful words. I especially like the quote from Corrie T B

Zoe said...

Thanks for the comments on my blog regarding busyness. I heard a pastor use busy as the following acronym

Pamela (His maidservant) said...

Great post!! The housekeeping of our spiritual life is so so very important. I am glad you stopped my blog and led me here.

I'll be back!!

In His Graces~Pamela

Bonita said...

Julie, I see your name everywhere these days- Carrie, Charlotte... And if I remember correctly, I believe you were on my list of volunteers when I was P31 volunteer coordinator. I thought I better hunt you down and see what all the rage is about.

Now I know! This is such a great post. I can relate to the housekeeping stuff because that is an area where I don't necessarily shine. Thanks for the great analogy with the spiritual life. So true!