A friend of mine recently told me about her mother’s obsession with spring cleaning. She said that beginning in the month of March her mother would go through their rather large and old home room by room conducting a thorough overhaul. Every shelf was cleared, every drawer emptied, window treatments removed, and furniture shifted so that absolutely no crevice or corner of a room was left untouched. She described weeks of back-breaking labor and unglamorous work. My friend, as she matured and eventually had a family and home of her own, realized how tedious and exhausting this must have been for her mother. She questioned her mom about this ritual and her mother replied by saying, “I loved you all too much to tolerate less than the best.”
I love her story because it paints a clear visual picture of how we, as individuals, should approach our marriage. Her willingness to get in there and get her hands dirty brought with it a sense of accomplishment and meaning. Following a few of these simple cleaning tips could be beneficial to any marriage:
Shift Things Around A Bit
In order to see where the dirt and cobwebs are, we need to do some heavy lifting and moving. It always amazes me how quickly the dust and grime can accumulate in a home. Upon first glance, it might appear tidy and clean, but as soon as you start looking under the bed and behind the sofa, you quickly realize that some attention is desperately needed. Similarly, our relationship with our spouse can harbor dark corners of neglect and withdrawal. If you are willing to do the hard work and begin moving some of your cumbersome issues out of the way, you just might uncover a few areas that are in dire need of a good scrubbing. I know a man who often responds with anger to his wife. I heard him say once that he has a tendency to just explode about things. After a while he generally calms down and usually apologizes for his outburst. He said that she is used to his behavior and that this is “just the way he is wired.” I would be willing to bet that behind those explosions of anger is a pile of hurt that could use an industrial strength sweeper.
Moving beyond our personal comfort zone and toward God’s ideal can only be accomplished by relying totally on Him. Just as I would find it impossible to move our large oak china cabinet on my own, most of our heaviest baggage and painful obstacles can only be moved with God’s help and His infinite guiding hand. Honestly examine how you relate to your spouse — do you react rudely or unkindly? Is your response fueled by anger, frustration or lack or respect? These are just a few of the attitudes that can add to a growing pile of hidden dirt in your marriage. Be willing to join with God in the difficult work of moving things around a bit and making a lasting change.
Clean Out The Drawers
I decided to clean out a three-drawer end table in our living room. I was shocked at how quickly I filled up a small garbage bag and a box designated for the local thrift shop. Out of sight out of mind for many of us. The same is true in most marriages. It is the little things that we ignore that often blossom into the biggest messes. A close friend of mine has often discussed her parent’s divorce with me. They divorced when she was a teen. Her tears break my heart and remind me that even twenty years have not erased the pain. Her father just recently confessed something to her in an emotional discussion. He said, “there was really nothing going on between your mother and I that could not have been fixed. We argued over the most trivial things, and I selfishly thought I could do better than this.” How sad that a marriage was destroyed and a family still deals with pain over issues that could have been cleaned up with a little persistence and patience. Determine not to fall into the same trap. Pull the drawers out and look at the clutter — throw away the things that shouldn’t be there. If you are having trouble sorting it out, pray together for guidance and wisdom. Seek a professional counselor or trusted pastor. Don’t just close the drawer on your issues and expect them to stay hidden.
We’ve all seen the cabinet or closet that literally explodes when opened because the accumulated items have just become too much for the space to bear. Sure, when the door is closed, everything seems just fine, but eventually the mess is going to have to be dealt with. Don’t let your marriage become so overloaded that an explosion is imminent. Do something about it now by opening the drawers and cabinets and taking an honest assessment of the things that need to go.
Dust Off The Shelves
In my home, shelves are used to showcase items that are meaningful such as family photos and mementos, treasured books, items from our travels, and even acknowledgements and awards. I diligently clean the shelves and the items placed on them because they are special to me and because others will see them. Marriage should be the treasured item prominently displayed on the shelf of life. We should be loving and careful with it because it is so special and because others are looking to our Christian marriages to be the example and standard. Sadly, too many of us have shelves that are so cluttered by trivial and unimportant things that the things of real value are often shoved to the back. Worse yet are the shelves that are so coated with dust and debris that even the valuable items have lost their luster and appeal. Don’t allow this to be your marriage. I am certain that, if we are honest, we’ll all admit to times when our shelf has become dirty and cluttered. After all, we live in a sinful world that is full of challenges and pain. Despite this reality, my prayer is that you will ask God for the wisdom and strength to put in the hard and sacrificial work necessary to have a marriage relationship that is glorifying to Him. One that you can prominently display with gladness of heart.
Remember what my friend’s mother said, “I loved you all too much to settle for less than the best for you.” God doesn’t want you to settle for second best either. He has put a plan in place for us to understand and receive His highest blessings. Romans 12:2 tells us to transform ourselves through the renewing of our minds. If you want a transformation of your marriage — a thorough cleaning — this will only come about through a personal relationship with Christ. So grab a dust pan and a broom and make spring cleaning your marriage the ultimate priority. You will be astounded at the way God reveals Himself and His glorious plans to you and your spouse.
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