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Can you relate to this?
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Do you remember what life was like in a pre-Covid world? When people actually came to your house, breathed the same air as you and had a meal with you?
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I love entertaining and the second I invite people to dine at my house, I start cleaning. I’m not an obsessive cleaner, but I have a cat and dark wood floors; a combination that leads to any random shaft of sunlight revealing 10 pounds of cat hair masquerading as an exotic rug. I sweep, I Swiffer, I vacuum and minutes later I’m on my hands and knees picking up the single hair I missed.
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It’s all in my head, of course. No guest or friend would notice, let alone comment on a single hair. But I can’t help it. I'm compelled to clean it. Is that kind of compulsion a sin?
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I think of the story of Mary and Martha and know in a heartbeat that I’m a Martha when I would much rather be a Mary. It shames me to be a Martha. I want to be the one who sits at the feet of Jesus and listens with rapt attention to His words. But I know if I sat on the floor I would spot that single hair, my attention would be in the wrong place, and I would miss what I need most. His words.
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Instead I hear other words. My mother’s and my grandmother’s, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” A quote I’m sure that helped turn me into the fanatical person I am today. The proverb is not found in the Bible but is instead credited to John Wesley's 1778 sermon, “Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness” as well as to the writings in the Jewish holy scripts, the Talmud.
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It's been this way for years and I still have difficulty with the perfection when it comes to cleaning the house. And, let’s face it, nothing works to abate my anxiety. Yet it doesn't actually have to because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Putting our daily busyness aside, subduing the relentless self chatter, spending time in prayer with our Father - that's what matters. And doing that allows me to hear God encouraging me to have a different perspective. Maybe, instead of putting all that effort into cleaning, I can give Him the attention. I hear Him chiding me, “Maybe it’s time to learn to see hairs on the floor and leave them there.”
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I am reminded that before God sent us His Son, the world was held to an impossible standard in order to be saved. God’s laws are still the same, but now we have, through Jesus Christ, forgiveness. We don’t have to be perfect. Neither does the house. I am invited to bring my sin and leave it at the feet of my saviour. And to stop looking on the floor for that single hair.