I admit, I’m not the best of housekeepers. Removing every speck of dust just doesn’t seem that important, especially when considered in relation to the current global crisis—or most anything else on my agenda. Our house isn’t dirty, by any means, but I don’t hold myself to the same standard that my grandmothers set, or even my parents. (My dad actually polished the plumbing inside the bathroom vanity!)
Moving into a brand new home has been a revelation. To start with, the place was spotless when we were handed the keys. It had been cleaned for our walk-through the previous week, and cleaned again the day before we closed escrow. I realize that it will never again be so immaculate, but there is a certain pressure to maintain this level of cleanliness for as long as possible.
This has been particularly challenging in light of the dust. Having never moved into a just-built house, I had no idea that construction dust would be settling for months. The first week I had to sweep our wood floor three times a day, just to prevent the soles of our feet from turning white. Every horizontal surface needed dusting just as often. (At first, I forgot to clean the rock wall around our fireplace. When I finally swiped at it with my broom, I sent a huge white cloud into the air—and had to dust all over again!) After seven weeks, it’s getting a bit better, but I’ve never had to spend so much time cleaning, even when our kids were little.
Our builder explained that there were certain things that are our responsibility. I spent a day sealing and re-sealing all the grout in the house. We still need to slather wood preservative on the 2x4s under our deck. And at some point soon, we’ll need to seal the expansion joint cracks in our cement driveway. (We have to wait for them to actually crack first.)
Then, in all the warranty paperwork, we found a list of “maintenance reminders.” I thought I was a pretty savvy homeowner—I know to check smoke detectors twice a year, to change furnace filters, and to check the caulking around the bathtubs.
But did I didn’t know that twice a year we should “test and reset ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) breakers”? I never considered “pouring water down the uncommonly used drains” to keep sewer odors at bay. And how often does one “check foundation concrete, and yard for settling” (and where do we get the dirt to “fill in as needed for positive drainage”)?
I’ve never lubricated the window or sliding glass door tracks. I’ve never thought to remove snow from the attic after a snowstorm, but I can see why that would be a good idea. (A water stain on the ceiling would certainly motivate us to check it in the future.) I guess I’ve been remiss.
We were taking communion at church last Sunday when I realized that we’re a lot like a house. When we become Christians, we’re brand new, totally clean, spotless. But we don’t stay that way. As we go about our lives, we get dirty and broken. After a while, parts wear out. We need regular cleaning and maintenance.
We’re used to examining ourselves before communion and confessing areas where we’ve fallen short. I know the areas I struggle with, and I’m aware of my need for forgiveness and healing in those areas. But I also have blind spots—other parts of my life that I don’t think to look at.
Happily God provides a list of maintenance reminders. When I read through the Bible, the Holy Spirit highlights attitudes and actions I need to deal with. (Sometimes He uses my husband to accomplish the same end!) I find it’s a lot easier to keep up with the housework, rather than to let it go. The longer we wait, the worse it gets, the more overwhelming it becomes, and the harder it is to clean or fix. Delayed maintenance isn’t a good idea, whether it’s our homes or our lives.