“Aah, cleaning! Yippee!!”
Is that how you respond to that task? If so, I congratulate you! I find that most people, however, clean out of necessity rather than entertainment. I realize that there is a sense of accomplishment, peacefulness, and even joy that comes from having a clean environment. It boosts productivity as well. But I do not see many people cleaning that which doesn’t need to be cleaned just so they can clean it. Even those who appear to “like” to clean, do so because their dislike for messy surroundings motivates them. They clean because they are aware of the negative effects of not cleaning, whether it is negative effects within themselves or negative responses to the average onlooker. Everyone has a cleaning drive that will be energized sooner or later, although it comes at different times for every individual.
Last time we talked about clearing out the clutter in our lives. Just like with our homes – especially during the fall cleaning which we are in the midst of here in New England – there is a need to get rid of things that mostly just take up space, even if they are good things. Once that is done, it is easier to perform stage two of the Fall Overhaul: cleaning up. Again, I see a parallel between what happens in our homes as we clean and what needs to happen in our lives as well. Remember though, we don’t live 24/7 in Fall Cleaning Mode nor should we when it comes to our own lives. That would be too overwhelming. Time still must be taken periodically to do an overall overhaul if we really desire to make our homes and our lives all that they can be. The more frequently we do this, the demands of the Fall Overhaul reduce.
In stage 2, there are three general steps to the process of cleaning up the “mess”. I will refer to them as the MACRO Stage, the MICRO Stage, and the MUCKY Stage.
The Macro Stage involves the generalized cleaning that one would expect. It carries the tasks of sweeping, mopping, dusting, wood polishing, cleaning countertops, sinks, toilets, making beds, straightening things up, and the like. It is the sort of cleaning that is most obvious and is observed by the average person entering your home or apartment. These are also the things that are easiest for us to spot because they impact our lives regularly and are necessary for a productive and healthy environment. It is the first thing we do because it yields the greatest and most visible results. When thinking about our own lives and figuring out what our individual macro stage consists of, really involves filling in the blank below:
Three things I need to do to clean up my life to make it more productive and effective are _______.
You most likely had no difficulty coming up with items to fill in that blank. They did not require intense thought and seemed pretty obvious to you. In fact, they are most likely obvious to those who are around you and who know you as well, am I right? You have probably even heard some of them mention these things to you. They usually equate to behaviors and attitudes that are prevalent in the way we do business, respond to situations, perform ministry tasks, and socially interact. These macro issues are the place to begin. They will yield the most immediate and effective results. It sets you up to win as you are successful at accomplishing the task, fueling you to go to the next stage: the Micro Stage.
The Micro Stage in our homes is that point where we clean the less obvious areas. These are things that we can see, however the change has happened so gradually that we did not even realize it until we opened up our eyes to the details and said “Eeeeeew!” You know what I am talking about: the cobwebs in the corners, the dirty doors and doorframes, the filthy window sills, the chipped paint, scuff marks on staircases, the kitchen cabinets with fingerprints and all that other grime…and I allowed people into my house when it looked like that? Yes, you did…and so have we. Worse yet, they probably noticed it before you did! Yuk!!
The Micro Stage of cleaning in our personal lives is similar. They are not as obvious to us unless we take a hard look at ourselves. Micro cleaning usually involves issues of character and personality that are less obvious to the individual than they are to the person looking on. Issues and situations that shape our character and personality almost never happen overnight. They happen little by little, block on block, grime on grime, until someone either points it out to us or we wake up one day, see it for what it is and say, “Eeeeeew, Yuk!” Are there aspects of your character that need cleaning? Not sure? Ask someone whom you are close to that is trustworthy, someone whom you will allow to offer some loving yet constructive criticism to get you back on track to where you want to be or know you should be.
The last stage of the cleaning process is the Mucky Stage. We save this for last, probably because it is the most disgusting, most difficult, and seems to yield the least results – at least as far as others are concerned – because it involves cleaning areas that they never see. It involves cleaning under furniture, behind appliances, inside the cabinets and oven, under and behind the toilet (an area you would have to lie on your back to see), and so forth. When it comes to our own lives, there are conditions of the heart that nobody ever sees. We cover it up and do all within our power to make everything else seem to be fine. We know it is filthy underneath and behind the façade we have constructed. But we reason it away saying it does not have to be dealt with today. Nobody has to know nor will they know. Yet, they do. They may not know the source of the odor in our lives, but like a toilet that is not cleaned underneath, the stench will permeate into other areas of our life if it is not dealt with. What heart issues, probably only know to you and to God, do you need to deal with? Are you unforgiving toward yourself or others? Do you deal with bitterness, anger, low self-esteem, criticalness, jealousy, envy, lust, piousness, or unhealthy pride? Now is the time to clean. Put it off no longer.
Cleaning, of the home and of our lives, may not be fun but it is necessary. It will bring a sense of accomplishment, peace, and joy into your life. The great news is that you are not alone. Everyone has to do it. Also, you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you believe it or not, there is a God who wants to help you with the process if you will just call upon Him. Jesus knows your every need and we are admonished in Scripture to cast our every care upon Him because He cares for us. Let Him help you clean. There is also most likely someone around you who will help you in the process. Call on them as well, if necessary. Know this: Cleaning is always easier when you have someone to do it with!
Do you have any insights to share with us? Until next time … HAPPY CLEANING!!