Getting the House in Order

22 Nov

My husband Brad and I are new to the Office of Marriage and Family Life, and new to the area, as well. We moved here from Minnesota. We accepted the position right after the July 4th weekend and moved right after Labor Day. I am still tired thinking about it. Aside from purging 7 years of garage sale finds, free furniture and well-intentioned but outgrown gifts and then packing everything that was left, we also completed every project we had meant to do since we moved in. We put in a new tile floor, painted, insulated the attic, removed an old drop ceiling, changed out light fixtures, replaced gutters, remodeled a bathroom and refinished hard wood floors. We even removed ballerina wallpaper border from our daughter’s room that had bothered me since day one. By the time we left, the place looked good enough to live in!

When we told people about this flurry of home improvement activity, almost everyone nodded and mused, “Yep. Isn’t that how it always goes? You get it nice right before you go!” Usually they would then proceed to share a similar story from someone they knew, or from their own experience.

Needless to say, we wish we could have lived in our own beautifully remodeled, de-cluttered house all along, and I think it’s not an uncommon regret. In fact, several friends who helped us in this process remarked to us that we had “inspired” them. Oh, good, we thought. You are inspired to follow God’s call even if it involves doing something difficult like moving several states away? No, they would answer. We had inspired them to clean out their closets and get rid of junk so they would never end up like us!

We can all see the wisdom of remodeling sooner so we can enjoy it while we still live there. However, in our spiritual lives many of us are still on the path of “remodel and run”. Some of us plan to get serious about God later in life. When I’m old I will start going to Mass regularly or every day. When I retire I will start serving the poor or praying the rosary or make up with that relative I haven’t spoken to in 20 years. There are lots of reasons people do this. Some think they are beating the system by living the “good life” of self indulgence now with a plan to repent at the last minute. Others find spiritual exercise too hard and hope it will be easier in time. Many of us really mean to work on things, but just get too busy to ever get around to it.

Whatever the reason, just like in remodeling, we look at the effort instead of the end result and we let it deter us. Sometimes, like with home repairs, we wait until some crisis comes up that necessitates getting things in order. In a house, such things can be our move, or perhaps water pouring through the ceiling or a persnickety in-law coming to visit. In the spiritual life, we may be moved to act by a sudden illness or death, a job loss or a threat of divorce. When a crisis arises, suddenly there is enough time and money and the schedule clears in order to do what we never seemed to be able to accomplish before. Just like in our physical homes, we would be so much more pleasant to live with and we would enjoy life so much more if we could make room to work on things during our normal daily life.

The month of November is the last month of the liturgical year, and in it we are always reminded that we need to always be ready to meet our end, whether it comes at our personal death or at the end of the world. We are reminded this month to get our spiritual houses in order.

Living in the peace that comes from praying and taking care of our relationships should be motivation enough, but God is a loving Father and doesn’t shy away from pulling out all the stops to convince us to get ourselves in gear. In one of the Gospel readings this month, we heard the parable of the Ten Virgins and we were reminded that putting things off to the last minute could result in disaster. The five foolish maidens weren’t prepared and therefore didn’t get into the party. This should give us serious pause. If we neglect forgiveness of a loved one, we might not get a chance to reconcile with them before they die in a tragic accident. If we aren’t praying, we might not have enough grace to deal with the trial that waits for us around the corner. Worst of all, if we are living in serious sin, we may not be strong enough to repent on our deathbeds. The truth is that getting our spiritual house in order isn’t something that can wait. Our eternal destiny and that of those around us depends on it.

What do you need to get to today? Confession, Mass, forgiveness of yourself or others? That good deed that you have been meaning to do and haven’t? Remember that you can always offer suffering up for others, too… so maybe you can clean out that front closet and kill two birds with one stone.

One Response to “Getting the House in Order”

  1. Fr. Shawn P. Tunink November 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Thanks, Libby. It’s great to have you and Brad in the Archdiocese.

    – Fr. Shawn

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