Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Spiritual Spring Cleaning March 16, 2023

Spiritual Spring Cleaning
Image by Jason Lander]

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

We tend to accumulate stuff. There are seasonally-specific things we only use once a year. When we realize we want to use something we need to remember where we put it a year ago. Sometimes we need to do some spring cleaning.

Organized people tell us it can be helpful to clear out everything at least once a year. They suggest we remove the stuff from all our cupboards and closets. Do we really want to keep this? Is this something we actually need or something we acquired and forgot about it?

In the hemisphere where I live, spring begins this year on Monday, March 20. Are we ready to start our spring cleaning?

Some people carry things with them their entire lives. We give these things sentimental value because they remind us of how we once saw ourselves.

It is helpful for us to look at what we believe once in a while and ask whether we really need them. Do we still believe these things have value? Can we still fit into them? Are we ever going to use this doctrine or those practices again?

Spiring cleaning is not actually about the things in the closet as much as it is about us. Where are we going and what will we need to take us there?

Spring Cleaning for Spiritual Life

For many of us, spiritual life is something we have accumulated along the way. We accept what we have been told and store it away for when we might need it. For some of us, spiritual life is like a hobby we used to have but have long since forgotten. Other people have accumulated bits and pieces but have never really practiced.

Spiritual life may be something we bring out once or twice a year. It is uncomfortable and does not really fit us, but someone gave it to us. We might not want to toss it in the dumpster completely, but it is not part of our everyday lives.

I see spiritual life differently.

Spiritual life is too important and too powerful to only drag out once or twice a year. Like physical health or financial health, spiritual life affects the other aspects of our lives. It is not healthy to keep it boxed up in a closet until we want to impress someone.

Spiritual life is an essential aspect of who we are and how we live. It is too important to waste sitting in a box.

Spiritual life is serious and we need to take it seriously. It is not good for us to try to ignore it and wait for it to go away. We do not help ourselves when we allow other people to choose our spiritual life for us.

Choosing What to Keep

Like clearing our stuff out of closets and cupboards for spring cleaning, we have choices to make. There are parts of how we understand spiritual life we want to use and practice each day. At the same time, there are aspects of what we see as spiritual life we might want to toss.

How do we decide what we want to keep and what we do not? Like any closet, we open and look through all the boxes.

There are times when we may feel overwhelmed. We have so much space filled with so many boxes. It is a challenge just to remember where we have put everything. Some of us have boxes we have moved from house to house without ever opening them. How are we supposed to go through all this stuff?

It may take us time and effort to sort through all our stuff and decide what to do. We recognize it is important and would be a good thing to do. There are other ways to spend our time, distractions which grab our attention.

The only effective way for us to make these decisions is one box at a time.

We need to remember we are not deciding based on where we got things or who we used to be. Our task is finding what we will need as we go where we want to go next.

It is essential to our decisions to know where we are going.

What Sort of Spiritual Life Are We Seeking?

The criteria for our choices are based on where we are going and how we will get there. Our garage may be filled with boxes of spiritual life which used to be important to us. Now is our time to open those boxes and take a look.

Will what we already have help us move toward the spiritual life we are seeking?

We may have saved boxes of spiritual life we have outgrown. It might make us feel guilty or afraid to think about tossing spiritual life with which we were raised. There may be a closet full of boxes of things someone has given us and we do not want to offend them.

I am not saying everything must go or all our boxes are bad. It is important for us to look and see whether our boxes hold spiritual life we want to save.

We might need help discovering or articulating the spiritual life we would like to have.

The Power of Making Choices

There are actually only two options between which we can choose. We can use our limited capacity to hold the spiritual life we need, which we are seeking. Whatever does not feed the life in us needs to go.

We do not have any extra space to hold onto what we do not need. Everything else drags us down. We must make wise, discerning choices. The decisions we make matter to us in real ways.

By making choices we free ourselves of what we do not need, of what drags us down. The decisions we make today shape the next decisions we will make, and the ones after that.

Which spiritual life boxes we have moved around for years would we most like to open?

Where are we going? What will we need to take us there?

Who will help us do our spiritual spring cleaning and make our own choices?

[Image by Jason Lander]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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