Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Spiritual Spring Cleaning February 13, 2024

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

A contemplative Lent is our opportunity to begin some serious spiritual spring cleaning and making space for God.

The liturgical season of Lent is not about giving things up or giving them away. It is not about chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, or social media. During Lent, we take an honest, insightful look at who we really are. We reflect on what we hold onto and how it holds us back from becoming our truest selves. Looking ourselves in the eye, we begin to recognize what we do not truly need. Lent is a season of preparation and anticipation of the new life of Easter.

I experience Lent as similar to spiritual spring cleaning.

Most of us tend to accumulate stuff. We have seasonally-specific things we use once a year. Whenever we realize we want to use something we need to remember where we put it last year.

Organized people tell us it is helpful to clear out everything at least once a year. They suggest we clear out our 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?

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

It is helpful for us to look at our things 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 tennis racket or these skates 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 as a Spiritual Practice

I did not grow up where I live now.

My childhood was spent in a small house in rural Wisconsin. Our house had two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. It had an unfinished attic and an unfinished basement.

There was enough space for my parents and me. Everything was great, almost perfect, for us until two dramatic things happened.

My two younger sisters were born. That was when we started running short on space.

It felt to me as if my sisters, and all their stuff, were trying to absorb all my space. I became good at holding onto and protecting whatever space I could find.

Sometimes it is easy for us to feel the same way about making space for God.

Not only is God really big, which fills a lot of space. God also brings along a lot of stuff and people to take up our space.

It its easy for us to feel God is like a demanding member of our family, like my sisters.

Lent, though, is not about finding ways to limit how God invades our space. We are not looking for the least uncomfortable ways to respond to Lent, things which are easiest to give up for a few weeks.

The challenge for us is how we experience room in our lives. We tend to see life space the way I saw space in our house when I was a kid.

We become accustomed to living in certain ways and comfortable with how we live. It is easy for us to believe the space in our lives is something to which we are entitled.

As I grew up I began to learn about allowing room for other people, and for spiritual life.

Clearing Space for Spiritual Life

Sharing space still may not be my greatest skill, though the ways I understand it have started to change.

One of the most helpful steps for me was appreciating it is not my space to protect. I did not create the room in my life, just as I did not build the space into my childhood home.

The space we have was not given to us solely to ensure our own comfort. Some of it might even be for us to share.

It can help us to be more generous with our space. I know people who do not particularly want to acknowledge the space between letters or words on a page. They would prefer not to recognize the space between notes in a piece of music.

Their lives seem to be spent rushing from one letter to another, one note to the next. The faster they can finish one thing the sooner they can move on to the next.

My contemplative practices have helped me appreciate the value of space. A practice of making room helps us find the space we need.

Making Space for Lent

How does Lent help us grow into creating space for spiritual life?

Like spiritual spring cleaning, Lent is an opportunity for us to clear out what we do not need. It is a time to look through the drawers and closets of our lives and begin making space in them.

Lent is about allowing room for spiritual life in how we see and experience the world, the world around us and the world within us.

Our particular approach to Lent may show us things we used to know but have forgotten. Each contemplative practice we adopt for Lent has lessons to teach us.

Many different practices can be our next steps into spiritual life. They can remind us of things we keep forgetting. Some of us need to listen, or wait patiently, or live into our promises.

How we remember and what we practice is up to each of us.

Spiritual life is not about how much we can acquire and hold in storage. We are creating space in our lives for the presence and actions of spiritual life.

Our spiritual spring cleaning is about clearing space for spiritual life.

Where are we making space for spiritual life today?

What opportunities do we have to practice spiritual spring cleaning this week?

[Image by Jude Doyland]

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 website is http://StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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