This month we will be featuring Days of Deepening Friendship on this blog. All of the readings will be available for free on this blog. Please read chapter 13 from the book and then enjoy the reflection.
During the spring and summer months, I air out the house, and this always triggers my clean-and-sort hormones. A few years ago, my husband and I moved from a small apartment to a modest bungalow that provided almost twice the space, and I’m still learning how to live in this space. At times, there is too much—I just can’t keep it clean and organized, and it’s a constant frustration. At other times, I fight an obsession to fix and decorate until it is a more ideal home: a new paint job in the living room, a better countertop in the kitchen, a ceiling fan here and a curtain there. This never ends. Never.
Some spiritual traditions encourage us to let go of our physical assets as completely as we can. The goal is to be spiritually free by thinking little, if any, about our clothing, car, home, and diet. Then there are the traditions that take quite a sacramental view of every mundane thing, and those traditions value a home that is clean, attractive, and welcoming, food that is nutritious and a sign of hospitality, and other physical properties—such as gardens and fine art—that proclaim to all the glory and generosity of God.
Probably every Christian must spend some time in each of those spiritual mindsets—the one that casts physical concerns aside as getting in the way of interior work, and also the one that honors physical concerns as sacramental by nature and as offering wisdom of their own. But, realistically, most of our lives we live in tension between the two. We want to honor the space we’re given and all the physical properties of that space. We want the colors and scents, textures and tastes of our lives to exude the glory and welcoming presence of God. But we don’t want to become slaves to every e-mail message that announces CLEARANCE! Or 40% OFF or FREE SHIPPING. Sometimes I must throw all catalogues immediately in the trash. And if I try to cook gourmet too often, our pitiful semblance of a budget disassembles and leaves us frantic.
Most women are quite conscious of place, and we have a sense of making our place an expression of ourselves and a welcoming site for pilgrims. Many of us can’t begin vacation until we have arranged all of our stuff in the hotel room or cottage (or campsite!)—we naturally create home.
But can we hold home lightly? Can we do the sorting and cleaning so that it serves us, rather than become servants to perfectionism and the latest issue of Real Simple or House and Garden? Can we enjoy our meals without stressing over how many new recipes we can try in a month? Can we feel comfortable with Jesus hanging out on the porch or in the living room? Have we even invited him to do that?
May your spaces be blessed this summer—full of natural light and prayer that is true response to the sunrise or the cool breeze or the sound of kids splashing around and adults enjoying a barbeque. Please stop at evening and feel the day settling down. Turn off the television more often. Take your time when you sort the photos or clothes or contents of the garage—these objects hold your stories, you know.
How do you live in the space you’re given? Post your thoughts and your stories.