Sweeping God

Day 12 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.

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During the student years, I had a little house cleaning and home organization business. Cleaning is one of the ways I enjoy bringing a bit of order, good smells, and beauty to people’s lives in an often chaotic world. It’s also a practice that puts me into creative listening mode–my house is never cleaner than when I’m writing a sermon. Sometimes, if I don’t know what to do next, I grab my broom and sweep.

One of the eight items that I intentionally brought into the Contemplative Cottage the first day was a broom, brand new, made by hand in a Amish community. Broom lore in many traditions suggests that old brooms should stay in the old house. On an allegorical level, this makes sense: start fresh and clean, don’t bring old dirt into your new home.

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For me, the broom symbolizes one of my favorite parables.

Jesus tells three stories in Luke 15, one after another: a shepherd and a lost sheep; a woman and a lost coin; a father and a lost son.

Each talk about seeking what is lost, and then rejoicing that it is found, tying it specifically to repentance (a return to life-giving place, purpose, or love). The sheep, coin, and son are treasured in different ways, but in each case God (shepherd searching, woman sweeping, and father running) is the finder and we are the found.

As a lover of hearth and home, Sweeping Woman God warms my heart. And yes, a man can use a broom, too, but we have already more readily imaged God as a male shepherd or father, rather than a female shepherd or mother. We are more likely to leave the woman sweeping simply a woman, rather than allow her to embody one more beautiful image of God searching for us.

So when I sweep, I remember I bear the image of this sweeping God.  I sweep the corners and under the furniture of my life, finding grace. I sweep up the bits of litter Minerva tracks everywhere and all the dirt that seems to accumulate through no one’s fault, both on my floors and in my heart. I ponder scripture and sweep, cleaning out my blindspots. I pray for people as I sweep that they may find what they seek and know order in their chaos. I sweep my confession, not under the rug, but out of the house, and receive a good ol’ dust pan absolution.

And when I’m done sweeping, I realize, I’ve been swept free, a treasure found and rejoiced over with singing by a God who enjoys sweeping, too.

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  • Kristi Lonheim

    Thanks Susan. I appreciate the new look at both brooms and sweeping. I have shepherd icons that I treasure. Now I am on the lookout for a WOMAN with a broom, or searching, or something along these lines.

  • Shari

    “Outer order contributes to inner calm,” really rings true for me.