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Each of us brings a variety of things home in the course of our lifetime, both to the house in which we dwell and the home within our heart.
We are, by nature, collectors of mementos, keepers of the souvenirs of our life experiences.
Some of the things we bring home are just curios and novelties, items we once found interesting, but now perhaps less so. Many of them are just ornamental knickknacks and bric-a-brac, the inconsequential little odds and ends that accumulate over a lifetime. We bring them home and display them for a while, but we have no great attachment to them. We know that they are destined to be disposed of or replaced by more meaningful treasures and keepsakes that have special associations attached to them.
The kinds of things we value the most tend to have one thing in common: For one reason or another they have become sacred to us. We hold them in reverence because of their deeper significance. These are symbolic and mnemonic in much the same way as a photograph reminds us of the smile of a loved one, an old, tucked-away letter is the repository of our sweetheart’s affection, or our child’s crayon masterpiece helps us remember that we are forgiven if we sometimes draw outside the lines.
Of the many things we bring home, the most sacred to us are the proofs that we are loved.
However, from time to time we get tired of the accumulation of clutter and need to do some major housecleaning. We look at our belongings and dispose of certain things, not just because our home is getting crowded, but because we no longer need all of the things we keep. As we clean, we take stock of what we have. We invariably come across some of the things we inherited from our parents. Some of these aren’t pretty, but because they are part of our heritage, we hesitate to get rid of them. We tell ourselves that we have not yet had enough time to determine their true worth.
Then come the gifts we need to look through, a combination of things we have received from others and things we have given to ourselves. We say to ourselves that the things which still give us solace will stay, and those that don’t will go. However, the more we look, the more we find. There are gifts everywhere, whole rooms filled with gifts we had forgotten we received. Unlike the rest of our belongings, gifts are rarely discarded. Regardless of their size or sophistication, they are all cherished because they are the tokens of love.
In among the rest are the mysterious gifts that just show up on our doorstep every so often. These are what we were really hoping to find in our housecleaning. These are the most cherished and sacred things we have, because they are the gifts from God, the evidences of His love for us.
After a good cleaning, our home seems much brighter, illumined by the light of all the love we have found. Now, as we pass through the rooms of our home, we can look around and see that we are surrounded by the evidences of our own spirituality. Even in the shadowy corners, we can see signs of mercy and forgiveness. There is a room where the walls are decorated with our own image. Old pictures hang side by side with newer ones—some of them attractive, others less so. They are there to remind us of how much we have progressed and transformed ourselves spiritually. As we stand before them we are proud to see how far we have come, yet we are humbled by how far there is to go.
When we’ve finished the housecleaning, we can see that it is better than before. As we put things back we arrange them differently, changing things around. This is one of the reasons we clean our home from time to time. When our understanding of things changes, our beliefs and views change, too. Many of the things we have are moved many times before we find just the right spot for them.
In taking stock we’re relieved to find empty spaces here and there throughout the home. These are the places where prejudices and hatred once lurked, and it is good to see some of them gone. We notice that there are still a few of them to be gotten rid of, but maybe next time we take stock more will be missing. We are patient because progress, not perfection, is the goal of housecleaning. In the end we straighten the sign by the front door that reads:
O Son of Being! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 17.