Spring cleaning is what Ash Wednesday is all about.
If we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and minds and soul and strength – how best are we to do that?
Each of these four aspects of ourselves is like a room within our being. Inside the room of the heart are all our personal relationships. Inside our mind are our thoughts. Inside our soul is our relationship with God. And, inside our strength is our relationship with our bodies. Each of these rooms needs some deep cleaning.
When my husband and I moved two years ago, I realized what a marvelous thing it was for our ancestors to spring clean. Suddenly, in packing and unpacking things I had not seen in many years, I realized what wisdom it was for people to take out everything from every closet and cabinet, clean it and put it back. For one thing, I began to realize just how much I had accumulated that I did not really use and how many things that I loved that I had forgotten about. This accomplished three things:
1. I got rid of a lot of things that were not useful or wanted.
2. I cleaned and remembered what I had that I wanted to use.
3. I made note of the gaps in my inventory of things that I needed.
I think that this Ash Wednesday as we acknowledge our mortality and meditate on our lives and where we are at this point, we can enter each of the rooms in our house and do something similar.
1. The room of the mind: What kind of clutter do I have? Is there a bit of garbage? And, paying attention to what I am bringing in, what do I need to be reading, watching, thinking, doing with my mind? What would I like to read and learn this year?
2. The room of strength: am I eating right – not too much, mostly plants? Am I getting enough exercise, taking walks? Now, research is saying that to keep our brain healthy, we should walk each day. How do I get my body to be as healthy and whole as possible?
3. The room of the heart: how are my relationships? Is there someone I need to reach out to? someone I need to forgive? someone I need to spend more or less time with? Am I grateful? Am I generous? Am I kind? Am I loving? Am I brave? How can I become more of these and less of the cynic, the critic, the person who is scared about scarcity? Can I practice gratitude each day?
4. The room of the soul, the largest room of all: am I spending enough time in prayer? am I reading and studying scripture? Am I looking at all I see and read, trying to see as God sees? love as God loves? Do I understand how God would have me react and respond to those around me?
I plan to do this examination of my being. I will spend time in prayer, listening to that still small voice. In each room, what do I get rid of? What bad habits or wrong beliefs or reactions do I have? What do I treasure? What should I add?
The goal: to be faithful, to live into loving God with all my heart and mind, soul and strength and love my neighbor as myself. This will be on my mind and heart as I place ashes on foreheads and hands. “Dust you are and to dust you will return.”
I was reminded of Longfellow’s line in the Psalm of Life: “Dust thou are, to dust returnest was not written of the soul.” After we receive ashes, we will then remember that though our bodies are mortal, we live on.
When we are finished with the meditation and the ashes, we will return to the communion table and drink of the promise of the life to come. That is where our hope is. That is what we are preparing for – eternal life. How can I become the person that God created me to be – for eternity?