Letting In the Light of Christ
Today I washed windows in my house. And as I did, I thought about how these windows are a lot like me.
Where I live, the extravagant SoCal sun blazes day after day. At the same time, the ocean breeze constantly deposits a film of salt and dust on anything within a mile, including the west-facing windows of my house. Gradually these windows become hazy and dulled, obscuring a little more sunlight each day. It happens so gradually that I can go months without realizing that I need to wash my windows.
Cleaning never seems urgent, but when I finally get around to doing it I’m always shocked: a spritz of cleaning spray, a swipe with a paper towel – and the towel comes away black with grime. Eww… I didn’t expect it to be that dirty. By the time I’m done, I have a pile of soggy, gritty paper towels, black with the film that once covered the window – and I’m startled anew by how the light coming through the newly cleaned window has an almost physical presence, warmer and brighter, in dazzling contrast to the muted light that had filtered through the dulled, dirty windows.
It is then, when the window is mostly clean, that I notice most clearly the dirt that’s left. If I’ve been careless about my cleaning – and I usually am – the streaks and the dirty spots I missed show up in stark contrast to the newly cleaned glass.
So it is with me. It’s when I’m most sure that I’m wonderfully righteous that I can, paradoxically, be most sure that I’m anything but. The more dulled I allow the window to become, the less urgent the task of cleaning it seems, even while in truth it is becoming more and more necessary. On the other hand, even the beginning of cleaning that window reveals just how dirty it really is. I marvel at how much more light floods in through the clean patch on the glass, and I can actually see, in contrast, the gray film on the rest of the window.
The dark corners are easy to overlook when the whole window is gray with dust, but they show up clearly when the rest of the window is clean… which is very annoying to a lazy housekeeper like me. Do I really want to take the time to wash both sides of the window? Do I really want to bother to stand on a chair to reach the top edges of the window? Something is better than nothing, I tell myself hopefully, but it doesn’t work. I eventually concede that a job worth doing is worth doing right.
It would be nice if I could just do one thorough cleaning of my windows and be done with it for good and all. But this is southern California, and I live a mile from the beach. The ocean continues to toss up spray that the wind picks up and blows inland. Salty, sticky dust settles across every surface. And so, if I don’t wash my windows regularly, they get dirty again.
Some prayer is like conversation; some prayer is like getting the furniture rearranged; and some prayer is like washing windows. Rolling up my sleeves, getting out the paper towels and the window cleaner, sweating in the hot sun, wrestling with the window screens, hauling out a chair to stand on, chasing the cats away, going back and forth and looking at different angles to find the spots I’ve missed.
And then sitting back, tired and grimy, and smiling at the bright sunshine pouring unimpeded into my home, and thinking: I didn’t do this for the window, I did it for the light: so that the light, that life-giving and beautiful Light, would shine not just in me but through me, without me getting in the way.