The Theology of Clutter, Dirty Laundry, and Unwashed Dishes

Basket full of dirty laundryAs I was reflecting upon the how the blood of Christ cleanses sin, I couldn’t help but think about the effort I was making during the 40 day Lenten season to clean out 40 bags from closets and cupboards of things to donate. I realized that Jesus’ cleansing work is not just a one time thing but a continual cleansing, because each of us is continually getting dirty. We need the forgiving work of Christ to bring us back to the state of “clean” that Jesus intends for us.

There is a state of clean I would love to have in my house as well:

  • everything neatly in its place,
  • all the dishes washed and put away,
  • all the laundry folded an neatly tucked into the right drawer…

…but when was that ever the case? The house is in a constant state of cleansing. It’s a job never finished.

Who Doesn’t Want a Cabin in the Woods?

I think part of the reason so many people enjoy owning a cabin is that right before they leave it, it’s cleaned and in order, just waiting for the next time they arrive. But homes don’t stay in that condition.

Why?

Just as soon as the dishes are in the cupboard, someone gets a glass out, fills it with water and sets it back empty by the sink…

…or throws dirty towels onto the laundry floor…

…or tracks dirt onto the carpet.

Rather than despairing that house cleaning is never finished, just remember that Jesus continues to clean us, time after time, day after day, and never with the threat, “This is the last time I’m cleaning you up!”

Our lives are a continual process on many levels, so we should be able to accept that about ourselves and others. Our spiritual growth process will continue even beyond this life. There is no stopping it. It can be ignored, just like you can ignore a messy house, but the reality of it is still there. At some point, the things piled up in the house will need attention, either by us or by the estate sale liquidators.

Your Messes Just Want Attention

Ultimately we will face Jesus with our mess, so ignoring it won’t solve anything. Like the never-ending cycle of the seasons, or the never-ending cycle of waking and sleeping, or the never-ending cycle of day and night, we live in the reality of the never-ending cycle of sin and forgiveness.

We need to persevere in all things, but especially when it comes to cleansing our hearts. We a blessed by the Church with the reminders during Lent to clean our hearts, to go to confession, to turn our hearts toward the poor.

Persevere during the season of Lent, and prepare to share in the joy of Easter, which is the foreshadowing of a day when we will live in a state of clean for eternity.

Emily Cavins

Emily received her BA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of Minnesota and is a tour leader of annual pilgrimages to Israel and other Bible related destinations. Her most recent publication is Lily of the Mohawks: The Story of St. Kateri, the first Native American Saint from North America. She is the developer of the “Great Adventure Kids” bible study materials. She co-wrote the “Walking Toward Eternity: Making Choices for Today” Bible Study Series One and Two with her husband, Jeff. She is also the author of “Catholic Family Night,” a series of lessons covering all three liturgical reading cycles with one lesson per week throughout the entire year. Emily lives in Minnesota with Jeff, her husband of over 30 years.

  • Holly Denman

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  • pnkyB4brain

    Emily,
    I simply love this juxtaposition of two important details of our lives. One is for our soul and the other is for our home. As I read your tidbit, I was struck with how similar the two can be. A true cleansing of the soul and home can be such an awesome experience for anyone to experience. It makes you feel all happy, content and warm inside. At least it does to me!
    Since part of my family has returned home to live due to economic reasons, my home has seen clutter that can only lurk in a mind’s imagination! I never knew there were so many nooks and crannies in my house that could hold “stuff”!
    These nooks and crannies made me think of how I deal with my faith and My God. I think I tuck things away hoping that the” problem stuff” will take care of itself. Instead of asking for assistance from God, my eternal Father, I figure I will deal with this “problem stuff” later.
    I am so wrong with this sort of thinking because the “stuff” in these nooks and crannies seem to grow and ultimately fester into bigger problems. I try to keep this hidden but the problem becomes bigger than the nook and it spills out and seems to have a mind of its own and grows and grows. Instead of asking for assistance when the “problem” was small, my pride stood in the way and the end result was a total mess! As I reflect, again upon your thoughts, I can use this analogy and gain some insight regarding my overzealous pride of doing things for myself and perhaps asking for assistance from God. This reading venture has opened a new portal of dialog between me and my Maker. Thank you, Emily.

  • DianeVa

    I love this post Emily and it immediately brought a deeper meaning to our response at Mass and our everyday life..”Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” This same thought could be applied to our weedy gardens, I keep pulling weeds each week and they keep coming back!

  • Avila

    This reminds me of when I said “I just don’t understand why I constantly keep falling not just into new muddy mires but also into the same ones over and over again. No matter how hard I concentrate, I discover I have wandered into another one”. My priest replied “Have you ever thought that perhaps God likes pulling you out?” Perhaps all we can do is our best and when we turn up muddy and unkempt, God lovingly responds to our pleas by gently brushing the tangles out of our hair, wiping our faces clean (the same way mothers have done, since the handkerchief was invented) and tending our cuts and bruises? Maybe God is more concerned about the effort we make to stay clean and our desire for His help, and a little less concerned about the amount of mud and tangles?

    I’m not offering this as an excuse not to bother but more of a thought that if we keep trying, God will keep cleansing and healing.

  • Kitty Cleveland

    Thanks for the reminder, Emily! We’ll die with a To-Do List, and I know laundry will be on it. 🙂