With Lent fast approaching, here’s a favorite of mine from the archives….
I hate clutter. I have it stashed in closets and spare drawers all around my house. I tackle a pile whenever I have time, but somehow more always seems to accumulate. One of the great goals of my life is to one day own nothing that I do not truly need, or do not enjoy for its beauty.
Today, I learned that there is a worse place to collect clutter than in your house. It was during confession this afternoon that Father mentioned to me that we should all try to declutter our souls this Lent, because they are truly the house which God most cares about. I immediately knew that God was answering my prayers about what I should concentrate on this Lent..
On the way back to my car, it occurred to me that tackling the piles of clutter in my house would be the perfect penance to join with my spiritual decluttering. As I sort through clothes, photos, vacation mementos, stacks of greeting cards, religious articles which arrive in the mail (and I can’t bear to throw away), etc., I can meditate on the comparisons between household clutter and spiritual clutter.
When clutter is visible in my house, it detracts from the beauty and order of my home. A big stack of mail and catalogs on the kitchen counter is stressful to see. Clutter which I have stashed out of sight still disturbs my peace. I know it’s there, waiting. If guests are staying over, I sometimes dash off to the guest room to see if any clutter needs to be removed and reassigned. 🙂
And, there’s always forgotten clutter, like when you open a seldom used cabinet and find a stash of paper napkins and salt and peppers packets from long ago take-out dinners.
Do you ever move clutter from place to place? I do. It would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.
The bottom line is that no matter how clean my kitchen may be or how sparkling the bathrooms are, the memory of clutter somewhere else never allows me to truly feel like I have everything done and can totally relax.
And, what if I should die suddenly! Oh my! Someone else would have to go through all my stuff….maybe even my super clutter-free sister-in-law. Gasp!
I see so many parallels here to what the clutter of petty faults, neglected duties, self-absorption, concern with the world, time wasted, etc., can wreak in our souls.
All of these things disquiet us, steal our peace and keep us distracted from God. Just as it is more difficult to relax in a cluttered home, it is also much harder to be with God in solitude and silence in a soul which is littered with “stuff.”
Years ago I used to stop at a church to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This church had a golden tabernacle, but I was annoyed that it often seemed dusty on top. “How can they allow all of this dust to accumulate on Jesus’ house?” I would complain to myself.
One day, God seemed to say to me, “I don’t mind that dust nearly as much as I mind the dust on your soul.” Of course that was true! I was worrying about dust that mattered little to God, when His Own dwelling place in my soul needed much more attention.
I am going to take an in-depth inventory of my soul this Lent. I will ask God to show me where the most clutter is hiding, and I’m going to be sure to write it down so that I can remind myself often. I am not talking so much about sin, but rather more of its underpinnings…those little habits and attractions and distractions which keep us less centered on God.
And, I will also make a list of clutter projects to tackle around the house for the next 40 days….the clutter I’ve been avoiding the longest.
I will ask the Immaculate One to help me with my project. She, who is without the slightest stain, is the perfect one to clearly see where the overlooked dust and clutter reside in my soul. I also think she will be happy to help me better organize things here at home.
Yes! It is time to declutter! Anyone else out there want to join me? Spring cleaning for houses and souls….not in that order!
In her spiritual classic, The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila gives the description of a soul in the state of grace:
It is that we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. …..We realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says he finds his delight. (Interior Castle, Chapter 1, no.1.)
I pray that this Easter, our Risen Jesus will find in your soul…and mine too, a most pure and sparkling diamond in which to dwell! May His Radiant Light shine clearly in and through us, and out to the whole world!