The sun is out, the day is bright. Still there is a thin layer of ice on the birdbath. It was a cold night. It was a beautiful cold night that reminds one that Springtime in the mountains is definitely not summer. There are indeed four seasons in Southern California, one just has to get over 5000 feet to find them in their splendor.
To many, I think, the Spiritual life has the quality of an add-on to a house. The house is mostly built, just have to tear down that wall, hook up the plumbing, call the electrician, and add a door or two. Then it’s just a matter of decorating and using the new space.
The Spiritual life isn’t this at all. It’s a fixer-upper. The house doesn’t need a new room or new landscaping. It’s a home from the 1930s with outdated wiring, old plumbing, termite infested walls, leaky ceiling, and all other manners of issues which are not as much a project as akin to the constant attempts by sailors to fight the corrosion of the elements.
The laundry room was originally built for a bucket of water and a hand wringer, with the line outside to be used for drying. The Whirlpool washer doesn’t fit, let alone the high capacity dryer. There’s no hookup to cable, and the phone line doesn’t allow for DSL.
But, with some work these can be fixed. The moment one thing is fixed, however, cracks appear in the walls, the roof begins to leak, and the paint is so old that the walls are permanently stained with the ravages of time. Each new project overlaps with the one before. Each plugged leak exposes a leak in a different, even less accesible place. Feral cats have taken up residence in the small crawlspace beneath the house, and for some reason a colony of ants have decided on a seasonal pattern of attempted Empire building.
The house is falling apart even as money and time and effort are continually expended to fight each particular issue.
And sometimes we get lazy and go for years without even mowing the lawn or washing the dishes, let alone addressing the core problems.
It helps to be in a neighborhood where everyone cares about the upkeep… but this just gives good peer pressure, it does not remove the efforts constantly demanded on us as the owners.
Someday, the prophets and faithful tell us, we will be given a new home, with wireless internet, granite countertops, fire-resistent roof, and all other expressions of wonderful home safety and convenience.
For now, though, we’re making do, our efforts to fix up are noted and the beauty of our homes, or lack thereof, is appreciated by those who see. It’s tiresome, exhausting, and frustrating to continually find yet more issues and discover one more old problem the old owner neglected.
Keeping at it, however, despite the problems is the essence of the Spiritual life.
A person full of anxiety about worldly things is not free: he is dominated and enslaved by this anxiety, whether it is about himself or about others. But he who is free from such things is untroubled by worldly concerns, whether they relate to himself or to others; and this is so, even if he is a bishop, abbot or priest. However, he will not be idle, or neglect even the most insignificant and trivial details; but all he does he will do for the glory of God, accomplishing everything in his life without anxiety.
—Symeon the New Theologian