Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Post: Vacuuming Through the Middle of the Room

My friend, Arianne, wrote this reflection recently. I was so inspired by it that I asked her permission to share it here. (Please note: this is a stock photo, not an actual look at Arianne's house).


I just finished vacuuming my upstairs. I had only about five minutes to devote to this task. Not nearly long enough to carefully pick up each room or move furniture so I could get under it. No, only enough time to plug the machine in and run it through the middle of each room. I only hit the really dirty part, the part where everybody walks every day. Then I had to unplug the vacuum cleaner and put it away, in order to move on to the next place I had to be.

I absolutely hate cleaning this way. I find it completely unsatisfying. My obsessive compulsive and perfectionist tendencies would much prefer to wait, weeks if necessary, until I have time to thoroughly clean to even bother getting the vacuum cleaner out. I can step over the dirt for quite a while thinking about how nice it will look when I vacuum every square inch of it. Twice. And then wash the baseboards next to it. That kind of cleaning I can get in to. The kind where you totally scrub a room from top to bottom, and when you’re done, the room is perfect, and beautiful. Now that feels like an accomplishment! Vacuuming through the middle feels slap-dash, not up to standard; it’s like admitting failure before I have even started.

This, of course, is a trap. And I fall into it regularly in more areas than housecleaning. If I were to give in to this impulse and only clean when I have four uninterrupted hours to devote to a room, I would be living in a very dirty house! Yet how easy it is for me to dismiss my 2 minute break in the day as “not enough time” to pray. I want to pray “right,” at the time and place most conducive, and with enough time to get into it, with the books I think have the right inspiration, maybe even a candle. And so days go by, where the subtle calls go unanswered by me, because, while I want to respond, I just don’t think there’s enough time, or the ideal situation, in which to do it right. In the midst of this continual postponement of my prayer life, I can become so fixated on the time when I will be able to “get away” for an hour or a day to intentionally devote time and place to God, that I pass up all the smaller chances to be in touch with God’s grace every day.

And so I have come to realize that it can be an act of great humility for me to vacuum only the middle of the room. In order to do so I must admit that, much as I dislike it, it is all I am able to do right then, and cleaning even part of the rug is worthwhile. Likewise, it takes a great deal of humility for me to pray for 30 seconds, while unloading the groceries. Acknowledging that I am tired, and distracted, and that right now I really need God, even though I don’t have the time or energy to compose a complete thought, requires me to accept that my God is a God with so much love and compassion that He loves me even when I show up sweaty, incoherent, and briefly. And that, if I do, He will seek me out again and again, in other perfect and imperfect moments, when I will, by His grace, also realize I need Him, and find Him there waiting for me.


  1. Arianne,

    Some thoughts on prayer from my class on prayer and our readings in the Catechism this week:

    "humility is the foundation of prayer" (CCC 2559)

    "It is he who first seeks us. [...] prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him." (CCC 2560)

    Your reflection is right on target... both in my own life/experiences, and with the teachings from the Catechism. Thanks for sharing it!


  2. I think that what you describe is the ,"Pray without ceasing," that the Bible talks about. I suppose God nudges us to do it so we will remember him and how much we need him all through the day.