Anna Hodul was only fourteen years old when she left her mother and younger brothers in Myjava, Hungary (now Slovakia) to sail by herself on the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm across the Atlantic Ocean to join her father and older brothers in Chicago. Anna was a remarkable woman and my maternal grandmother.
Although I was only eight when she died, I have some wonderful memories. My mom and I lived with her and Grandpa and mom’s oldest brother, Ed. Grandma was a fantastic baker and could make the best kolachces and nut rolls. Her chicken soup was the best I’ve ever eaten. But the memory that stands out to me the most was Spring Cleaning.
In our home, Grandma was definitely queen. And every Spring before Easter the house had to be cleaned from top to bottom. Whatever could be taken down was washed in her old wringer washer and hung out to dry in the sun. Rugs were taken out and beaten, walls were washed (and often given a fresh coat of paint).
When everything was done to her satisfaction, the Easter baking would begin. What memories. I asked her once why all the fuss. Her answer was simple- “Jesus died on Good Friday and rose again on Easter and our home needs to be ready.” She told me that over fifty years ago.
Soon it will be Easter again. The Christian Church has entered the season of Lent which began last week with Ash Wednesday. It is also a time for Spring cleaning, not for the body but for the soul.
The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrew 12:1-2, ESV
These verses give us a Biblical foundation for our Lenten Spring Cleaning. On the one hand, we are commanded to “lay aside every weight”; on the other, “the sin that clings so closely”.
When I was little, Lent meant giving up candy or sweets. Today, our lives are so crowded with things and with noise it is hard to hear or discern the voice of God. We need to set aside those things at least for this season to focus on what is truly important in our lives. When a runner runs, he removes every hindrance to his running. He lays aside things that while they are fine in and of themselves, only hinder him when he runs. Perhaps we could lay aside some things like Facebook, Words with Friends, television and movies, and such which are not wrong but have consumed so much of our time.
The other part is to get rid of “the sin that clings so closely”. Every time I open a package filled with Styrofoam peanuts I understand this verse. No matter how hard I try, some of those peanuts just stick to my hands and are almost impossible to get into the trash or recycling bin. Each of us has those kinds of sin in our lives. We know they are wrong and we want to get rid of them, but it is so hard. Things like bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, gossip, tale-bearing come to mind. Then there are the sexual sins like viewing pornography, fornication, and adultery. They hold on tightly.
What to do? Acknowledge that what you are doing is wrong and ask Jesus to forgive you. Ask Him to break sin’s hold in your life and set you free. Remember my grandmother’s words- “Jesus died on Good Friday and rose again on Easter and our home needs to be ready.”