Well, it's Easter vacation for our school. Starting late last week through the end of this one I have had and continue to enjoy (!) the ability to sleep in and move at a leisurely pace in the morning. I have actually read some books; they're still history related books, but I'm reading at my own pace and not at breakneck speed. Best of all I've had time to take care of some tasks that have been sadly neglected.
Ironically these are not tasks I would normally look forward to accomplishing. Things like mopping and dusting always take a back seat in my world, but when they haven't happened in my world since, say, late October or possibly further back, these chores turned into something I have been looking forward to for several weeks. I hadn't realized how back to nature we were growing (pun intended) until I discovered that the dust in some places was no longer dust, but had become actual dirt. I've never been the best housekeeper, but that discovery was a nasty surprise.
Wisely I divided the workload into smaller chunks to be done everyday, so as to not be overwhelming, but the division has also given me some time to ponder.
As I ran a cloth around the upper regions of my kitchen to catch the cobwebs today, I pondered how these messes started off so small. The cobwebs were once little and invisible, until they weren't taken care of and grew into larger dust traps, and then, when the airborne grease particles found the small collection of dusty webwork the problem grew again. Which made for more opportunity to catch dust and so on, until in the dark little recesses of the ceiling there was quite the disaster. Really, isn't that the way most messes begin, though?
Even our personal messes, whether they're financial or relationship-related or workplace problems or spiritual issues, usually begin as small things. But when we don't take care of them they grow. Just like the five cent fee per late item at the library that grows into several dollars when I check out so many items (maybe that's just me...), or the cart full of one dollar impulse purchases at the grocery store that blows the whole budget when it adds up at the end, those little problems left unchecked bloom into larger ugliness. A late payment accumulates fees and that unfortunate sharp word festers in the heart of a co-worker until the situation seems impossible and we wish we had taken the time to deal with it in the beginning, when it was still a small thing.
Those small things matter more than we realize in the moment. In between bouts of cleaning I've also enjoyed having some time to draw during this week and even in that activity I am surprised by how much the small things count. As I have often reminded my art students, the problems in a drawing are usually solved by small adjustments. The eyes are too far apart by fractions of a centimeter, not two or three. The fingers are just barely too long or too skinny or too far left or right--if they were off by a large degree the mistake would have been noticed early on and corrected. But do such tiny errors really matter? Yes. The tiny errors add up and my drawing of one person begins to look like someone entirely different.
And that's just the problem spiritually, too. The big mistakes are so much easier to see and correct. It's the tiny errors that feel like they don't matter that eventually shape who we grow into. Little lies that go unchecked grow too easily into integrity issues that begin to define who we are in the eyes of others. Small deceits that aren't rebuked too often encourage more occurrences until suddenly we find ourselves no longer trusted by those around us. These small moments become so pivotal in who we are later, but we don't always realize it until those small moments are past history and we're stuck in the dirty cobwebs of the present, wishing we had dusted sooner.
I am reminded of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, which shows how God values the small things. Even the one talent was important to the master, who had many. Matthew 25 concludes with the exhortation to take care of even the least among us, which again is a reminder how important the least things are in the eyes of God, who looks not only at the big, abundant, rich things and people of life, but even at the smallest and least. The unfortunate thing for us is that even the smallest errors are noticed by God and separate us from Him. Romans 3:10-12 shows how we are perceived by God: "As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." This is a bold statement that makes us quite uncomfortable--what if I'm taking good care of those least things mentioned in Matthew 25? Doesn't that make me good?
Well, it makes me good in the eyes of people around me. The problem is twofold. First there are all those other small things that add up like the dust in the cobweb. The second thing is also like those dusty cobwebs; from the ground all that mess wasn't quite so visible, and it was only as I stood on the stool and could see clearly that I could see the entirety of the dirt. Our hearts are like that, too, and even if we can show the best and good to those around us, there are always things that we cannot see. But God sees them, as we are reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7, as David was chosen king, contrary to what everyone expected: "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
All of which convicts me and should convict each one of us. But it leaves me even more uncomfortable than before. If those small things matter so much what am I to do to overcome them? Here's the fortunate part for us all: we don't have to overcome them. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ... But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6,8) These words are good news for us all. The Lord will take care of those small things if we let Him. First He cleanses us through His death on the cross. Then He cleanses us daily as we willingly walk with Him through all those small obstacles. He takes care of those dirty cobwebs in our souls and He doesn't need a step stool to see even the most hidden ones. If you have never thought about God's gift or the need for spiritual spring cleaning, I encourage you to do so. We all need it.
As we approach the day of celebration of His gift, I cannot think of a better way to spend my Easter vacation than to ponder His amazing cleansing gift, as I feebly attempt to clean my long-neglected home.