Thursday, April 24, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
Grandmother’s cleaning frenzies were a blessing
The older I become the more I think that parts of those we have “loved long since and lost awhile” take up residence in us, after those persons have crossed over to the other shore. The better parts, I hope.
For example, I sometimes feel possessed by the spirit of my maternal grandmother who was a stickler for order and cleanliness in our home. Whether Grandmother derived pleasure from her daily rituals of sweeping, cleaning, and dusting, she never said.
Perhaps she did it all out of a sense of duty or moral obligation. Perhaps to her this was just what grandmothers do. I doubt she spent much time questioning such things. What she did spend time doing was sweeping, cleaning, and dusting. I grew up in the cleanest house any child ever inhabited.
Dr. Bolling, our minister, would often stop by in the afternoon for a pastoral visit. Grandmother could see the front walk from her chair in the front room (unlike people in today’s world, we actually lived in our living room!), and when she saw Dr. Bolling, or any other caller approaching, she would go into a lightning frenzy of tidying — most of which involved getting me to gather up my toys which I had scattered in the middle of the floor.
As I think back on it, Grandmother was terribly indulgent toward me. I was the youngest of her three grandchildren, and she always let me drag out all my playthings into her clean house, and realizing now how much neatness was a concern for her, I am amazed that she was so kindly about my childish ways. Two things would raise her ire — wasting notebook paper (she would tell me how children wrote on a slate when she went to school), and the aforementioned visits from the minister when I had her house full of clutter. Apparently a clean parlor for the minister was a cardinal necessity.
“When I became a man, I put away childish things,” says St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. And in my adult life I have come to appreciate more and more my grandmother’s concern for neatness and order. But I have a soft spot for children, and I earnestly hope that no child of my flock is ever scolded for “being a child” and having toys in the floor when the minister happens by for a visit!
I also find my grandmother’s spirit prompting and possessing me to go on housecleaning binges. Unfortunately, I notice this kicks in when I need to be doing something else. For example, the urge often hits when I ought to be preparing my sermon. Still, I can think about how a sermon can unfold while running the vacuum! In fact, sometimes I think I have my best thoughts behind the vacuum. When I go to set them down on paper, they often do not seem nearly as fine.
I am grateful for my grandmother. Any child who grows up close to grandparents is singularly blessed. But I think mine might be surprised that I would think of her with gratitude for all that housecleaning she did, seemingly in spite of and because of me and all my childish clutter.
“Lord, forgive us our sins, and let us forget not all thy benefits!”
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