Historically, I have considered myself a meticulous housekeeper; however, since the last child graduated from college and various volunteer commitments began to fill my days, I have become less rigorous in actually executing my formerly meticulous practices. Lately, a careful observer would certainly have noticed an impressive layer of dust on the ledge above the front door, and the blinds only looked clean at night. I excused myself by reasoning that I am home far fewer hours now than when I was shepherding a tribe of children and their young friends; moreover, I reasoned, most people would consider my home clean and inviting, as I am assiduous in cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen, and I am a neatnik by nature.
Even so, as the months flew by, I felt an increasing concern that the house was screaming for attention, and I simultaneously began to dread the length of time it would take to clean everything properly. Thus began my experience with staying home to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Finally, my months of procrastination screeched to a halt: unable to tolerate the ever-expanding pile of cleaning chores at home, I carefully made a list and grouped various tasks into categories that could be tackled over the course of several days.
Last Friday morning, I faced the most daunting task: two days of vacuuming everything in the house: blinds, shutters, window sills, baseboards, floors, carpet, and area rugs. I had remembered that our vacuum cleaner was heavy as well as powerful, but somehow I did not recall it being THIS heavy! I speculated how much time might have passed since I had last dragged this veritable “dirtmeister” all over the house, up and down the stairs, all the while disconnecting, attaching, and re-attaching the various vacuuming tools for different surfaces. This machine, however valuable and effective it might be, had never felt this ponderous! I wondered to myself whether I simply had somehow morphed into an elderly, feeble lady since my last rodeo with this vacuum cleaner.
In addition to its impressive weight, the machine kept tipping over backwards when I attempted to pull it along behind me. To make matters worse, the tube accessories that connected to the hose flew apart quite often (except when I wanted to pull them apart to attach a different tool). Suddenly I found myself vacuuming with a tool attached to nothing. As the hours of battle wore on, the level of my ire was growing. That night, with calves aching from dragging this megaton machine around the house, I collapsed into bed. Perhaps I needed more rest and more regular exercise, in view of my new weakling status. I consoled myself with the thought that I had vanquished at least half of the house. As Scarlett O’Hara valiantly declared in the film Gone with the Wind, I asserted, “Tomorrow is another day!”
The next day continued in the same vein; I tackled the master bedroom and was hopelessly losing the hose behind me and jerking on the recalcitrant beast when it refused to move forward. Apparently, I started addressing the vacuum as if it were alive, yelling, “Come OVER here! Stop breaking!” Unbeknownst to me, my husband came downstairs to check on me, as he had actually overheard my yelling from the upstairs office on the other end of the house!
At some point in the throes of this battle, I remembered a parenthetical comment my husband had made during the first day of this wrestling match. I suddenly decided I might as well check the dirt bag to verify whether or not it needed to be emptied. As I unzipped the cloth bag containing the dirt collection bag, I was aghast to see a bulging vacuum bag that was inflated to the point of bursting (mercifully, it had not done so!). After laboriously disconnecting it, I lugged it out to the trash — horrified to discover that it weighed as much as a newborn baby!
A few moments later, still aghast at the volume of dirt packed into that bag, I fitted the dirtmeister with a clean bag and re-initiated my quest to finish vacuuming the house. To my astonishment, I was no longer an elderly weakling! The machine followed my lead quite readily without toppling over, and I lifted it over obstacles with ease. (The hoses still fell apart, and one of the tools broke, but I persevered.)
The lesson was not lost on me: how many times to we long for breakthrough into a new season without realizing we are encumbered in entering it? How often do I exert an earnest effort to do what needs to be done without considering that I may be carrying detritus around with me that actually impedes my progress into the new season (in this instance, a clean house and a new sense of order in our personal space)? Oddly, I had wondered for a day and a half why the battle was so fierce and the burden was so heavy — not realizing for a moment that the greatest source of the problem was my own baggage, baggage that belonged in the trash!
Jesus Himself invites us to come to Him when we find ourselves overwhelmed and weighed down by things visible and invisible:. “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” (The Passion Translation) Father, expose any hindrances to my spiritual growth that I may be lugging around with me. Show me what to do to divest myself of things that should be consigned to the trash bin — dead things from past seasons, sins You already forgave, pain You want to lift from my heart. Help me to be willing to respond quickly to Your revelation so I will be able to move more easily into breakthrough. Empower me to recognize and discard the harmful burdens of the past. Be glorified in and through Me, Father!