One of my favorite household chores is cleaning the lint trap in the dryer. It’s such a straightforward task. At the same time it makes such a tangible difference. Though my clothes don’t appear to have lint or dirt on them, when they finish drying, there is a layer of colored fuzz and threads waiting in the lint trap.
I think there’s a fairly significant spiritual metaphor for cleaning the lint trap. Sometimes we don’t see the dirt and mental lint we are collecting on a daily basis. The lint might come in different forms – an unresolved health problem, a confusing relationship, or a pattern of behavior that is driving us up a wall – but wherever it comes from and whatever it looks like, if it’s not from God it’s not good, and it can’t stick to us.
Fear, illness, and shortcomings seem like a part of us – part of the fabric of our being and something we are stuck with. Yet we can turn to God in prayer for a “wash and dry.” Prayer helps us think clearly by separating who we are from these congested or lintlike thoughts. Instead, we see that we are unconcerned, whole, and virtuous.
Even when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray, we can throw ourselves into God’s care. We can pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10, English Standard Version). This simple prayer is so useful. It starts, “Create in me....” So often we are misguided or struggling along, trying to fix everyone else instead of beginning with and staying with God’s perspective about His creation.
Once I was extremely discontented with an organization I was involved with. I felt that the other members were being narrow-minded and frugal when it came to youth programs. Clearly, I was right and they were wrong, and I had a list of points to prove it! As my discomfort with and mental stewing about the situation grew, I decided that I needed to pray.
Looking at the long list of grievances, I was overwhelmed because I could see that they were faults that felt deeply ingrained in me. Where would I begin? What needed healing the most?
As I sat quietly, I shut off the mental noise and listened only to God. I felt God’s reassurance with these words from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy: “Shepherd, wash them clean” (“Poems,” p. 14). I felt the release from the mental struggle, and I knew that this wasn’t my battle to fight. God would wash me and separate me from each concern and show me how to go forward with life.
That’s what happened. Things resolved and I did go forward. The next day I got an e-mail about funds that were already in place to help children attend summer camp. In fact, it was a program that had already been in existence, but I had become so absorbed in my discontent that I’d forgotten about it.
So when the mental lint trap turns up full, don’t worry. That old, outgrown way of thinking has no hold on you. Instead, you can feel renewed by God’s pure stream of right thoughts. Keep praying and know that this “right spirit within” is who you really are.