Lessons from cleaning....
We all have traditions that we have learnt from home that inform the way we do things in the present in our own lives. For me, some of the patterns I unwittingly picked up from my parents show up when I'm doing house chores. Growing up, the arsenal of cleaning products at my house were pretty simple and old school: some bleach, some abrasive cream cleanser, and some disinfectant (laundry detergent may have been added at some points to the mix when needed). Because these products were so generic, I was accustomed to cleaning day being an exhausting affair involving lots of elbow grease, hence I really hated having to do my chores, especially when it was my turn to clean the bathroom. Cleaning the toilet especially was a thing I really hated. I would see my mother pour all the products in, let it sit and then return a while after to scrub and scrub, and flush and scrub some more. I dreaded when my turn came to share her domestic joys. As such, my mind was conditioned over time to really have a negative view of cleaning bathrooms in particular, but of course, adulthood came and my feelings on the issue mattered little.
Recently, I let my cleaning slip a bit because of a super packed schedule and so I stopped everything this weekend to get things back to pristine perfection. While in the grocery getting my refills of cleaners, I spotted this toilet bowl cleanser and decided to give it a try. "What do I have to lose?" I thought. I figured that I always had my bleach and stuff to fall back on- all the things with which I was familiar - if it turned out to be a useless product. That afternoon, I was so exhausted, I poured the cleanser in the bowl and went to take a brief nap that turned into a three hour coma complete with dreams and everything. When I awoke, I took a deep sigh, donned my gloves and went off to get to work. Imagine my surprise then, when I looked into the toilet bowl to see it almost spotlessly clean all on its own. It was like magic! I stared at it confounded, and delighted all at once. One flush and a few light swishes of my toilet brush later, and my bowl was the brightest white I'd ever seen it. There was no toil, no labour, no elbow grease, just light involvement on my part to complete the powerful work of the toilet bowl cleaner. It was then that I thought of the Bible verse:
Of course I'm quoting this verse out of context, but the principle still applies. Here I was as an adult, taking on my own life in the same way I had learnt from childhood; holding on to family traditions, without having examined whether they were really effective or not. I wasn't aware of the efficacy of the right tools because I had never before been exposed to them . Let us suppose that I had refused to walk down an unfamiliar path and had remained dogmatic that what I grew up knowing was what I should continue utilizing. Wouldn't that have been unfortunate?I would have continued stressing myself out only to get passable but imperfect results, and I would have continued in my ignorance. The more I mature, the more I realize that ignorance is not always bliss, in fact, Ignorance can kill.
The same applies to our spiritual lives.
So many times we hold on to traditions: family traditions, religious traditions, using whatever we've learnt, or what we feel or think we know based on what we've been taught, to try to clean up our own lives or our own hearts. The problem is, however, that whenever you use the wrong tools you can be guaranteed that you will have to labour, and toil, and struggle to get a sub par end result. Sure, life may LOOK clean when you're done with all of your works, but is it ACTUALLY? Is it the brightest white you've ever seen?
The work of the Holy Spirit is like that powerful cleanser. Due to the fact that He is the right person to tackle the job, the end product is undoubtedly superior. He comes through and pulls up all of the muck inside of our hearts and minds and lives and we're left surprised that all we have left to do is surrender and just walk out the path He has set before us. Our toiling comes to an end and all we are left with is satisfaction, contentment, awe and an acute sense of the fact that we could not have accomplished this on our own, and that these results are WAYY BETTER than whatever we had convinced ourselves worked for us before. Another benefit of yielding to the Holy Spirit's work is that instead of dreading submitting our lives to be cleaned, we now have hope, knowing that it's not about our human efforts, but about what the Holy Spirit will do next as we yield various parts of ourselves to His sanctifying Power.