Let me start this post off by saying that I missed church today. To make matters worse, this is the third Sunday in a row that I have missed church. I started out the day feeling a bit spiritually empty. I’ve been feeling this way lately, like I haven’t been hearing or feeling God as much as I want to.
I was also feeling very overwhelmed this morning because of the state of my house. It had been spiraling downward for the entire week, and looked like someone had detonated a bomb inside, sending toys, clothes, and dishes flying everywhere. Just looking around made this already drained momma sink into a funk that bordered on depression.
When I was a teenager, my mom used to tell me that the way we presented ourselves to the world was a representation of how we were on the inside. If this is true (and I believe it is), then my internal self must have been feeling disorganized, scattered, and…well, dirty. I was reminded of the saying, “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” From the looks of my house (and the feelings in my spirit), I wasn’t doing so hot on the Godliness scale.
So, I decided to spend my Sunday cleaning. At first I was conflicted, because I’d already failed to make it to church. I didn’t want to also fail to keep the Sabbath holy. Then I was reminded of a conversation I once had with an elder, who told me that the Sabbath should be anything we do that brings us closer to the Lord. You may wonder at the ability for cleaning to bring me closer to the Lord, but I swear…by the time my laundry was folded and I had the dishes in the dishwasher, I was humming hymns and my soul felt uplifted.
This got me wondering…is cleanliness really next to Godliness? Is there doctrinal truth to this?
In the book “Eat, Pray, Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks extensively about the similarities between the different world religions. While there are many differences among them, most major religions from Islam to Buddhism, from Native American spirituality to Christianity, share the same major concepts such as love, compassion, and service to others. Amazingly enough, when I researched it, the major world religions also have common ground when it comes to cleanliness.
Be it in the body, the home, the mind, or the soul, religions world-wide advocate for being pure and clean. One Hindu text, the Srimad Bhagavatam, states: “Penance, cleanliness, compassion and truthfulness [tapas, s'auca, dayâ, satya] are the legs that established the age of truth.” Buddhism stresses the importance of personal purification and cleanliness. Native American sweat lodges are often used for spiritual cleansing. They also, by their very nature, are a form of physical cleansing, as the body rids itself of toxins through sweating.
Further, Islam focuses strongly on the aspect of cleanliness. As Islamic-world.net states, “Islam places great emphasis on cleanliness, in both its physical and spiritual aspects. On the physical side, Islam requires the Muslim to clean his body, his clothes, his house, and the whole community, and he is rewarded by God for doing so… While people generally consider cleanliness a desirable attribute, Islam insists on it, making it an indispensible fundamental of the faith. A Muslim is required to be pure morally and spiritually as well as physically.” The Qur’an requires cleanliness, stating: “Alla loves those who to turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean” (2:22).
In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah says, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). In Ezekiel 36:25-26, it says, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
In Doctrines and Covenants, the Lord said, “Let all things be done in cleanliness before me” (42:41), and “Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness from you” (90:18).
And friends, I could go on and on and on…
It seems to me that cleanliness, then, is no small issue. No matter the religion or belief system, the importance of being pure in heart and physically clean is stressed. This makes sense.
God is a God of order. He is not a God of chaos or disarray or disorganization. And this God of order created us too! In His image! To be in union with Him! Wouldn’t it make sense then, that if He is a God of order, and if He craves cleanliness, that we would innately do so too? Moreover, God is perfect. He is pure and blameless; the complete antithesis of dirty! If we are striving to be like Him, it seems we would strive to be clean.
Moses 6:57 says, “No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.” Where is God to go if my house, my heart, my soul is not clean for Him? How am I supposed to commune with Him if I have not prepared a place?
We have been called to be stewards and caretakers of this earth, of this creation (another universal concept across religions). This means we are to keep the earth clean, to help it run smoothly, and to maintain a system of order across it. If we are to do this with the earth, then it can only be expected that we should do this in our own homes as well.
And if we are to do it in our own homes, you best be certain we are to do it in our hearts and spirits too.
You may think it strange, but I am looking at my laundry in a new way now. I am looking at my housework as a way to show God I care enough to create a home where He is welcome. I am showing Him that I respect his commandments. I am creating a space where I can be with God. My house is becoming an outward expression of what I hope my heart is…welcoming, inviting, and full of room for God to come in, take a seat, and start talking.