We're half way through Lent (Woop-woop!) and if your anything like me, you’ve chosen to give up something you love in preparation for Easter. most likely, this means giving up something manageable like snacks, chocolate or some other treat. However, Lent is meant to be a time for us to grow greatly in our spiritual life. It’s a time not just to give up something manageable, but to also take it a step further and give up the things in our life that hold us back from creating a better relationship with God.
So, for those of you that seek an enriching Lent, I want you ask yourself
"What can I DO this Lent to deepen my spirituality and relationship with Christ?"
My answer - You can do some spring cleaning!
I know. You're probably thinking 'No. Really, Rachel. What can I do?"
I'm serious about the spring cleaning! Let me explain.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘spring cleaning’ but what is it exactly? Historically, it has been traced back to ancient Jewish practices where people would clean their entire home before the springtime festival or Passover. Some traditions dedicate an entire week of Lent to cleaning one’s house! It’s a cleansing, a DEEP clean.
What’s the purpose of spring-cleaning? To keep dirt, germs and pests away of course! I can remember as it would get warmer out my family would literally beat the dirt the hallway rugs and let them air out in the sun. What I’ll never forget is how the air in the house would change in spring. Everything was suddenly fresh and new after the sweeping, dusting, mopping, and de-cluttering. Spring-cleaning is like a new beginning for our homes. After all the work is done, you have a clean slate!
But how often do we think about cleaning up our spiritual life?
We spend so much time cleaning our external environment, but what about our internal environment? Just like how our houses can get messy, so can our spiritual life. ‘Spiritual cleaning’ is where we thoroughly and honestly examine the thoughts, emotions, and habits that prevent us from becoming our best selves. Then we remove those things. Just like how we remove the clutter, dirt and germs in our homes, we also have to identify the germs, dirt and pests in our spiritual life and take measures to get them out!
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to clean up your spiritual life!
1. Take time to be quiet:
Our lives are so busy and noisy!! Often, our workplaces are fairly loud, we live in a house full of children or a dormitory full of roommates. Let’s be honest, life isn’t built around silence. However, it doesn’t mean our ears should always be filled. Noise is not only distracting in getting physical tasks done, it also clutters up the mind and thus one's focus during prayer or meditation. It inhibits spiritual awareness and keeps us from thoroughly examining our consciences. Noise is a kind of spiritual fog. This 'fog' affects many aspect of our life but it greatly affects our relationships. Noise makes communication harder, preventing one from having a clear conversation with others and God. It's seen as rude to check phone notifications during a date, meeting, or even breakfast with a friend right? It works the same way with God! The silence leaves hearts and minds open to communication and improves one's spirituality because it cultivates an attentive relationship with God and others. Take time and be quiet to build deep relationships.
2. Let go of Grudges:
Grudges are sensitive, complicated matters usually because they involve emotional pain. People feel vindicated in their grudges since the offender's action is usually an injustice of some sort. I’m sure we’ve all felt justified at least once to a point where you hold onto mistakes others have made. After all, how can we let it go when we KNOW they're in the wrong? However, Grudges are harmful to our own spiritual development because they produce an egocentric and prideful mindset. It becomes all about how ‘I feel’, how ‘I’m offended’ or about how ‘I’m right.’ It's not that those things aren't legitimate feelings, it's how we let those beliefs and emotions divide us. When we focus only on our perspective, we are setting ourselves on a pedestal above others, creating division, rather than closure and healing. Entrapping us in our self absorbancy, the hurt we hold onto only consumes and enslaves us. We are all called to relinquish rivalries, wrongs, hurts and forgive! Why? Because grudges will ultimately hold us back from being a person of virtue and prevent us from achieving true freedom in Christ. Let go, forgive and achieve freedom!
3. Trust God with Your Worries:
We worry about so much in life. Most of the time they are legitimate worries that revolve around uncertainty. What if I fail? How are we going to pay these bills? What if they don’t like me? What if we don’t make enough money? What If I don’t get that job? What if I never find someone special? These are all thoughts we’ve had at least once in our life and when we focus on these uncertainties they become a problem. Worries are a distraction, much like noise, because they take away our focus. Unlike noise, worry is deeply rooted in fear which can make us stop pursuing our dreams, goals and our best self. To help clean up your spiritual life, you must trust that Jesus is right there with you in your situation. He wants to help you through it, but you have to let him in. When we worry, it’s as if we don’t trust him and we close ourselves off to Him, curdling our spiritual life and our relationship with Christ. Give God your worries and be fearless!
4. Stop Gossiping:
This is also one of those habits people have an easy time justifying much like Grudges. ‘But it’s true!’ most people say in their defense. Speaking poorly about someone else, spreading bad news about their life unnecessarily, or talking about another person to belittle or criticize are all forms of gossip even if what you are saying is true. Gossip can be anything from outright lies to idle talk. It is a destructive habit that not only hurts other people’s reputation, but also hurts ours. We become untrustworthy with other people’s information and our integrity becomes bruised. To dive deeper, spreading gossip also causes one to lose sight of another persons dignity as a child of God. They become a target of judgement which isolates them from any kindness or understanding. Worst of all, gossiping removes all compassion and gentility from our hearts, and prevents us from living a life of love. If I could compare any of these 5 habits to a disease, this would be the one. Begin to remove this one and you'll regain your integrity, compassion and understanding of others.
5. Pray Every Day:
This is the foundation for cleaning up your spiritual life. If you aren't praying, it is very hard to achieve a clean spiritual house. If you haven't taken considerable time to pray, then you probably haven't considered cleaning your spiritual life either. Don't get me wrong, I'm not poo-pooing on people who don't pray all day! That would be so hypocritical of me since there are days I forget (or am too stubborn) to set aside time to pray. But, I know that taking a few minutes a day to evaluate your level of happiness, your mood, the things that bug you, or the things you are grateful for is the perfect way to start becoming the best version of yourself and weed out the harmful habits in your life. Those moments of prayer are your conversations with God where you can give Him your worries, let go of grudges, gain understanding, and deepen your relationship with Him. even if it's for 10 minutes, pray every day.
These five habits are essential to a spiritual spring cleaning. Some of them are easier to do than others, but they are all worth practicing. Each one has played a part in my personal spiritual journey bringing me closer to Christ and have helped me realize the impact I have on others. I still struggle in practicing these, so don't feel discouraged! Take it one step at a time. Start with prayer and then let the conversation you have with God determine which one to work on next. It's not too late to make this the best lent ever by taking the time to tidy up!!
I hope the rest of your Lent is fulfilling and brings you closer to being the person God intends you to be!