The Theology of Clutter, Dirty Laundry, and Unwashed Dishes


cleansingAs I was reflecting upon the how the blood of Christ cleanses sin, I couldn’t help but think about the effort I was making during the 40 day Lenten season to clean out 40 bags from closets and cupboards of things to donate. I realized that Jesus’ cleansing work is not just a one time thing but a continual cleansing, because each of us is continually getting dirty. We need the forgiving work of Christ to bring us back to the state of “clean” that Jesus intends for us.

There is a state of clean I would love to have in my house as well:

  • everything neatly in its place,
  • all the dishes washed and put away,
  • all the laundry folded an neatly tucked into the right drawer…

…but when was that ever the case? The house is in a constant state of cleansing. It’s a job never finished.

Who Doesn’t Want a Cabin in the Woods?

I think part of the reason so many people enjoy owning a cabin is that right before they leave it, it’s cleaned and in order, just waiting for the next time they arrive. But homes don’t stay in that condition.


Just as soon as the dishes are in the cupboard, someone gets a glass out, fills it with water and sets it back empty by the sink…

…or throws dirty towels onto the laundry floor…

…or tracks dirt onto the carpet.

Rather than despairing that house cleaning is never finished, just remember that Jesus continues to clean us, time after time, day after day, and never with the threat, “This is the last time I’m cleaning you up!”

Our lives are a continual process on many levels, so we should be able to accept that about ourselves and others. Our spiritual growth process will continue even beyond this life. There is no stopping it. It can be ignored, just like you can ignore a messy house, but the reality of it is still there. At some point, the things piled up in the house will need attention, either by us or by the estate sale liquidators.

Your Messes Just Want Attention

Ultimately we will face Jesus with our mess, so ignoring it won’t solve anything. Like the never-ending cycle of the seasons, or the never-ending cycle of waking and sleeping, or the never-ending cycle of day and night, we live in the reality of the never-ending cycle of sin and forgiveness.

We need to persevere in all things, but especially when it comes to cleansing our hearts. We a blessed by the Church with the reminders during Lent to clean our hearts, to go to confession, to turn our hearts toward the poor.

Persevere during the season of Lent, and prepare to share in the joy of Easter, which is the foreshadowing of a day when we will live in a state of clean for eternity.

About Emily Cavins:

Emily received her BA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of Minnesota and is a tour leader of annual pilgrimages to Israel and other Bible related destinations. Her most recent publication is Lily of the Mohawks: The Story of St. Kateri, the first Native American Saint from North America. She is the developer of the “Great Adventure Kids” bible study materials. She co-wrote the “Walking Toward Eternity: Making Choices for Today” Bible Study Series One and Two with her husband, Jeff. She is also the author of “Catholic Family Night,” a series of lessons covering all three liturgical reading cycles with one lesson per week throughout the entire year. Emily lives in Minnesota with Jeff, her husband of over 30 years.

Copyright 2014 Emily Cavins


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  1. Awesome post! As I look around my sorely-neglected home (we’ve been doing a lot of running around with kids’ activities of late) I know that frustration so well.

    But one thing that is very comforting is that Jesus NEVER says to us, “This is the last time I’m cleaning you up!”

    That’s what grace and mercy are all about.

  2. This is a great look at the daily struggle we have to keep our homes clean. I struggle with caring too much that my house is “guest ready”, when REALLY, i rarely have people other than my family in it. I need to focus on making the home a happy one more than a CLEAN one. Most of the time anyway!

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