I have a love-hate relationship with cleaning the house.
It takes quite a bit of effort for me to get started. Yet once I’m in the zone, I’m no longer just doing my regular mopping of the floor but I’m also sometimes inspired to clean the fan as the layer of dust has exceeded my visual threshold. Or I find myself randomly scrubbing off bits of dried lizard droppings from the wall all around the house. And then in the afterglow of a squeaky clean floor, I feel like I’m gliding on air… that is, until the next time I feel the grime build up again.
Out of sight, out of mind
One of the big themes of life is that of cycles – routines, rituals, patterns of repetition. An example seen in different cultures and traditions is that of spring cleaning, in the form of annual festivals to bring out the old and usher in the new. When it comes to spiritual cleansing, we similarly have rituals of confession and repentance to clean the old self and put on a renewed mind and spirit. Just coming out from a Lent season, this is very pertinent. Other religions have variations of this motif of inner cleansing. Perhaps we were created to desire order in our lives, and clarity in our inward parts.
But I wonder if we have become so accustomed to living with dirt, that we have lowered our standards of living.
And I mean this in relation to dirt in our inner being – unforgiveness, envy, resentment, grumbling… How often do we get our cleaning act together when filth is hidden in the covert rooms of our hearts and minds? Like my bad habit of waiting until things build up considerably before I start scrubbing away, do we wait for a once-a-year moment to give this level of attention to the state of our soul? We may think an annual spring-cleaning is sufficient – at least we are not living like a hoarder – but what if we could take stock of our mental clutter more regularly, more diligently, and live with less mess throughout the year? And to be decisive about dealing with it, instead of just suppressing our pent-up frustrations in a little crevice of our heart. Lest we inadvertently become a ticking time-bomb, waiting for a right trigger to press its button.
In my previous post, I mentioned the importance of having a regular rhythm of rest. When it comes to inner cleansing for matters of the heart and emotional baggage, it is probably no different.
Truly, madly, deeply
When I was living as a single and during the courting days before marriage, one of the most essential investments I made (which my husband uses as a word of advice to younger friends) was to clear as much emotional baggage as possible from my past. This can include failed relationships whether perceived or real, disappointments at work and from families of origin. The deep cleansing work is on-going throughout marriage as two very different people come together to learn to live as one. And it can drive us both crazy if we don't intentionally deal with the triggers that point to issues that are actually rooted in the past, such as grudges to let go and wounds to be healed.
For instance, an innocent comment that the soup is too salty can set off feelings of not being good enough or resentment that you are not being appreciated for the effort. This in-the-moment trigger is like a speck in the heart that if you pay closer attention to it, reveals to you a much deeper root which is not just a superficial mark that can be easily brushed off. The gunk sinks into the psyche of a rejected heart, calcified with negative thoughts and emotions that have stuck to it over time. It is indeed amazing how much junk we can collect about ourselves (“I am unlovable”), others (“no one can be trusted”) and our situations (“things will never change”).
And we probably don’t realise that we are in the company of many others struggling under the load of such invisible baggage.
Take for example my mattress. Looks clean on the outside right?
Look again.. That’s only part of the muck pulled out from deep within the mattress (thanks to cleaning it for the first time in three years with our friend’s Rainbow vacuum cleaner!).
Getting our hands dirty
Now imagine if we would take time to clean out the junk, better still on a daily basis: we would not be living with the build-up of gunk. We would not just learn to live with the unhappiness and discontentment we feel. We would not just cope with frustration and disappointments that have deadened our hearts. We will dig deep to remove entrenched grime that has hardened our hearts and made us believe the lies about ourselves and others. But it sometimes takes special tools like the Rainbow vacuum cleaner to get the job done.
Here are some ‘tools’ for deep cleansing that I have found helpful in my own journey, not to mention the essential work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate my mind and heart. Contact me if you’d like to hear more or just bounce some ideas on how we can do this better together.
Daily examen of the heart with a discipline of surrender and forgiveness
Prayerful journalling to make sense of issues, thoughts and feelings
A spiritual friend or mentor to share with along the way
Counselling and therapy
Inner healing prayer ministry for deep-seated and generational issues
Deep cleansing is not optional if we want to truly live well. Let’s not just get by, living with ‘skin allergies’ (i.e. emotional reactions) for life. I fully acknowledge that it takes effort to even start. I’m a queen of procrastination for things that require a dedicated chunk of time to get a job done well, and house-cleaning features prominently on that list, let alone deep emotional cleansing.
But our Father in heaven is ever so patient with me, and while the battle to overcome my inertia is real, I have heeded the inner promptings to stop dawdling and start the hard heart work. In the process, I’ve been encouraged by the cleansing of the Holy Spirit’s power and the emotional freedom that comes with it. It helps to do that with others so we know we are not alone in this journey, so let’s whip out our tools and together develop rhythms of introspective cleansing on a regular basis!