Essay: Cleanliness

Jan 11, 2019

My mother was fond of saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” as she pointed me toward my bedroom.  It was years before I discovered this wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments, wasn’t even in the Bible. 

When I no longer lived in my mother’s house, I let cleanliness slide until it slid right out of sight.  Oh, I maintained personal cleanliness—showers, shampoos, and so forth—but household cleanliness overwhelmed me. 

I’d never noticed how many things could get dirty!  Everything, in fact.  Not just my bedroom but every room.  Every surface seemed to exist to collect dust.  Who could keep up with this?  Only my mother.

I tried to draw a line in the sand between messiness and filth.  But the line disappeared in the sand on my floor—and then my mother would call to announce, “I just washed all the curtains!”  Curtains?  It never occurred to me to wash the curtains.  I barely washed the windows.

Well, it’s a long way from godliness.  But here’s the thing.  When I visit someone’s else’s house, how much attention do I pay to cleanliness?  Almost none.  If I like the person, I don’t care much about the rest of it.

My mother cared and if there are curtains in heaven, they’re clean because of her.