A spring cleaning of the soul

This Lent I’ve chosen to focus on the elimination of clutter in my life. In both the mental/emotional and physical sense, but mostly in the physical sense. This announcement was greeted with a huge grin from my wife and a hearty “Hallelujah!” Nonplussed, I spent a weekend cleaning out our 4-drawer file cabinet and shredding seven full trash bags of paper. It was our first purchase when we were married almost nineteen years ago and it appears that we simply threw everything in there.

(I did find a stack of football/baseball cards and the top one was a John Elway rookie card. A quick search online and it appears this thing is worth anywhere from $30-$129. Hmmmm…what else needs cleaning?)

I think what’s really hit me this Lent is developing a sense of detachment from the things of this world. To simply let go and not hold so tight to my possessions. After all, it is all fleeting and things fade away. And I won’t be taking it with me once I’m gone, so before I burden my wife/kids/family with the task of sorting through all the schtuff I’ve begun a preemptive strike. It actually feels pretty good once you begin and I’ve been surprised by the nagging feeling I get now as I see another pile of books, or papers, or videos, or compact discs, etc. It’s actually very liberating once you start.

So that’s the physical end of things. But what about the mental…or the emotional? Isn’t there a lot of baggage and clutter there, too? In both my heart and my mind I know for a fact I’m either dragging it around or building little piles in the corners and shelves of my inner self. Just as I don’t want my family to have to sort through a lot of things, I don’t want to have to begin eternity by doing the same thing. I am dealing with them now, and “straightening up my room” so to speak. This has involved prayer and the sacraments, in particular the Sacrament of Confession. It occured to me that by going to confession I’m participating in an activity similar to what I used to go through when I was preparing to leave a house or apartment I was renting. I would have to go through each room, cleaning walls and carpets and tubs and sinks. Or repairing the nail holes and blemishes on the walls and/or removing stains from the carpet. The landlord usually provided a checklist and this served as a guide to ensure nothing was missed in order to get my full deposit back upon leaving.

God has done this too. He is our landlord and he has provided us with a checklist. When’s the last time you went over it with Him? 

An examination of conscience based upon the ten commandments is usually a good place to begin. BeginningCatholic.com has an excellent guide here, and I downloaded a copy of this PDF from LifeTeen at my desk to use when I walk to St. Mary’s for confession prior to Mass at noon. Even if you’re not a Catholic nor go to confession it’s not a bad place to start.

Fabreeze or a carpet shampoo will take care of the carpet cleaning in the apartment. God uses His grace to clean the stains from your soul. The deposit you receive back is pretty good I’d say: eternity in Heaven with Him.

As if to drive this concept home, I came across this exceprt from a sermon by Saint Augustine the other day.

Our wish, you see, is to attain an eternal life. We wish to reach the place where nobody dies, but if possible we do not want to get there via death. We would like to be whisked away there while we are still alive and see our bodies changed, while we are alive, into that spiritual form into which they are to be changed when we rise again. Who wouldn’t like that? Isn’t it what everybody wants? But while that is what you want, you are told, Quit. Remember what you have sung in the psalm: “A lodger am I on earth.” If you are a lodger, you are staying in someone else’s house; if you are staying in someone else’s house, you quit when the landlord bids you. And the landlord is bound to tell you to quit sooner or later, and he has not guaranteed you a long stay. After all, he did not sign a contract with you. Seeing that you are lodging with him for nothing, you quit when he tells you to. And this, too, has to be put up with, and for this, too, patience is very necessary. – St. Augustine, Sermon 359A.8.

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11 thoughts on “A spring cleaning of the soul

  1. Interesting. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one I’ve struggled with until recently. I like the idea of it being a way to de-clutter! very helpful.

    • Thank you. The concept came to me last week while doing more cleaning and then not being able to sleep one night. For whatever reason this Lent the message of “detachment” has been really repeating itself to me and when I read the quote from St. Augustine it just seemed to write itself. And it is in fact how I feel after going to confession. Lighter, with less stuff to carry around.

  2. I love this post. It’s so important to clean both your earthly possessions and your soul on a regular basis… I’m still struggling with getting up the courage to get to confession.

    • Thanks Maggie, I agree with you completely. I feel like I lifted my head above water just long enough to see all the piles of stuff I’ve literally stacked around myself. And while doing some readings and prayers I saw how I was doing the same thing in my own life. For me the thing that made the most sense was to go to confession. When I joined the Church 19 years ago this Easter it was the last of the sacraments I was able to come to terms with. But now I can’t imagine not having it available to me. You can do it, I promise you.

  3. Hey Jeff,

    I used to blog a few years back, but cannot remember what the name was I blogged under:>))) Too old I guess:>) Thanks for liking my blog, I as well like yours very much. God Bless, SR

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