If there’s one household chore I despise above all others, it would be sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. I mean, is there any job more pointless for a mother of young children?
I can spend an entire day swishing my broom across every square inch of hardwood and then get on my hands and knees and scrub for an hour. But when lunchtime rolls around, my sweet babies will sit in their seats and munch on their grilled cheese sandwiches and their Spaghettios. And inevitably, bread crumbs and clumps of cheese and splotches of red sauce will land on the floor beneath them. In a matter of minutes, all my work will have gone to waste.
Or will it?
I suppose at least that corner behind the trash can won’t have a cobweb anymore. And the dried milk spot from last night’s supper will be gone. And maybe — if I’m lucky — those spots won’t reappear until tomorrow. So like a good mother, I’ll wipe up my kids’ mouths and hands, and then I’ll grab the broom again and sweep, sweep, sweep. Then I’ll grab a washcloth and scrub until the red spots are gone. And I’ll do this after every meal. Every day.
I recently had an epiphany that the spiritual condition of my heart isn’t much different than my kitchen floor.
It all started when I allowed my priorities to get out of whack. Like any mother, I was struggling to juggle all the responsibilities on my to-do list. As each day passed, I spent less and less time in God’s Word. I read my Bible, but it was a cursory five-minute exercise in the morning, and I didn’t remember what I’d read an hour later.
And my prayer life? Well, it consisted of a short “Thank You for this food” before meals and that was it.
I’d allowed every surface of my heart to collect months’ worth of cobwebs and dust and food scraps.
It’s no surprise that under those conditions, I didn’t feel close to God. And I certainly didn’t feel much love or joy in my relationships with my husband and children either. I became clogged with so much gunk that I was on life support.
Then one day, I got sick of it and decided to do something about it. I opened up some books that have redirected me in the past, and I lapped them up. As I read, a desire started growing in me — a desire to get rid of the dust in my heart. A desire to be clean again before the Lord and experience His peace and joy.
And so I dropped onto my knees and confessed my shortcomings to the Father. I begged Him to infuse my life again, to become the Lord of everything, to become my top priority. Filled with a renewed determination and hunger, I sought Him in His Word. I started a prayer journal and wrote in it every day. And the dust started to clear.
Sweep, sweep, sweep.
But one day wasn’t enough. Soon I discovered that each day had to start just like the last — with the same priority of meeting with God first. Because on those days when I didn’t sweep out my heart, when I let the busyness of life and the lures of sin and complacency clutter my heart, I was dropping the red splatters of Spaghettios on my heart’s floor. And those spots would remain there until I met with God again and wiped them away. Every day.
I recently heard a sermon about Elijah, recounting the time he’d faced off against the prophets of Baal. He challenged them to call on their god to set fire to an altar they’d built. But their god remained silent. Then Elijah set up his altar and went as far as dumping water all over it. And when he called on the name of the Lord, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the altar and everything in it.
This was a spiritual high for Elijah. He was invincible after seeking God’s power and watching it at work. His heart had been swept clean until it sparkled.
But in the very next chapter (1 Kings 19), he learned of Queen Jezebel’s plan to kill him, and he fled for his life, wishing himself dead. Right after this huge spiritual accomplishment, he fell to the bottom.
There are many reasons why he could have dropped to this spiritual low, but if his life is anything like mine, he may have given into the trap of complacency. He may have thought, “I just swept out my heart last week when I burned up that altar. So I should be good for a while.” Or, “I’ll skip my prayer time today. I know God is with me; He just proved it back there with those prophets.”
How many times do I make those same excuses? How many times do I think, “I learned so much from the sermon on Sunday, I don’t need to read God’s Word this morning. I’ll just let the sermon simmer for a while.” Or, “God already forgave me for the time I gossiped last week. I don’t need to tell Him about how I gossiped again today at lunch.”
But in letting the daily priorities of Bible reading and prayer slip, I’m letting that dust accumulate all over again. And until I seek Him first, nothing will get swept.
The pastor who preached about Elijah also shared this comment: “We must never presume that yesterday’s sacrifice is twice enough for today’s blessings.”
As I thought about his words, I returned to the image of my kitchen floor. What if I spent two hours scrubbing it yesterday, waxing and polishing and buffing? Does that mean it will be clean today when the dust resettles and the crumbs fall and the cobwebs reappear? Can I just sit in my chair and pretend those crumbs will disappear since I swept them up yesterday?
If I took that approach, my floor would be a sticky and dusty mess by next week.
The truth I’ve learned is that keeping my heart clean comes down to priorities. The more I meet with God, the more He can take His broom and sweep out those dusty corners.
And as I allow Him to do this daily, He will wipe my heart’s surface until it is sparkling clean, putting me one step ahead when the next mess comes.
[This article first appeared here at Ungrind on December 29, 2011. We’re republishing it because … well, we just love it that much. We hope you enjoy it too.]