I recently had the opportunity of volunteering to help with the annual cleaning of my local temple. Once a year, the temple is closed for two weeks of deep cleaning, in addition to the daily and weekly cleaning that is ongoing. It amazes me how Heavenly Father can bless us with spiritual insights about a task that might at first glance seem to be the most temporal of duties. I learned three valuable lessons that I wanted to share for discussion.
1. Take time for maintenance.
Knowing that the temple was closing, my husband and I made it a point to attend the temple the week before it closed. We made it!
On Saturday night.
The second-to-last session.
(It wasn’t the last possible session right? SAFE!)
We happened to see two other local attorneys that I know in the session, causing me to quip, “There must be a looming deadline if this many attorneys show up at the last minute.” It’s true, my life is governed by court deadlines for things, and without a deadline to squeak in on, I don’t really know how to accomplish anything. *sigh* That’s a contemplation for another post.
During the session, I received a tender mercy from Heavenly Father answering an aching for understanding and help in my mind and heart. My work has been incredibly overwhelming and stressful for some time. I have struggled to keep myself on an emotional equilibrium and it has affected my happiness. In turn, my stress and emotional struggle has impacted my family. That makes me resent work even more, and the cycle has continued.
As I sat in the temple that day, it became clear to me that I work to support my life and my family, and that my work is not my life. As a family law and child attorney in guardianship cases, it’s very hard not to feel the stress of everyone else’s family situations and also hard not to feel very burdened when I can’t solve all of the problems. It feels like important work that I absolutely must get right, sometimes at the expense of sleep or rest. As my mind wandered around about the temple being closed though, I realized that temple work is Heavenly Father’s work, and it’s eternal. It’s the most important kind of work. And yet, Heavenly Father is all about wisdom and order. So much so, that a closing is planned every year to do annual cleaning and maintenance. Why? Because that helps the work to progress in the way that it should going forward. Moreover, the temple is always a place of order and routine and dependability. We are not asked to run faster than we have strength, no matter how important the task.
Applying this to my own situation, I realized that if I ask Heavenly Father’s help, I think He will help me to structure my work/life balance in a more wisdom and order-filled way. That might mean that I don’t answer my phone immediately, even when someone has an “emergency,” and that it will be okay. I’m working on implementing this guidance and trying to figure out the best way to utilize this inspiration in a practical way.
2. There is clean, and then there is temple clean.
Anyone who has been a temple, even for an open house, has some sense of how beautiful and elegant it is. A good word to describe it is “pristine.” I think even the neatest person would be hard-pressed to ever say the temple is “dirty,” and needs to be cleaned. That starts with daily and weekly maintenance tasks. By the time the deep clean comes, the volunteers aren’t having to clean up “chunks” of anything, but are dealing with “mites” instead.
My first job in cleaning was to use an extension wand and a cleaning pad and wash the walls in several rooms. The right cleaning solution was used for the task, with enough cleanser to remove any dust, but also light enough to not cause damage to the delicate wallcovering.
My second task was to don a pair of white cotton gloves, and pick up individual crystals that had been carefully removed from the celestial room chandelier and sconces and gently laid into plastic boxes with each layer separated by a white cloth. I sprayed an appropriate cleaning solution onto a glove, and gingerly rubbed the crystal that seemed clean before starting. However, as I carefully rubbed it, I could see that I was removing just the first hint of some dust and the crystal did indeed shine brighter. The clean crystals were placed into a different plastic box to be returned to the other volunteers who were hanging the crystals back on the chandelier that had been lowered toward the ground to allow the ladies to lay on their backs and rehang each individually.
Applying these cleaning processes to my own thoughts and life made me think of repentance. All of us have some wall-washing to do sometimes. However, it is important not to scour ourselves when the appropriate light touch is necessary. We can be overly hard on ourselves when that is not what is required. Second, sometimes we need to do the hard things, like the disassembly and reassembly of thousands of crystals, if we want to be our best. It’s very tempting to “surface clean” our lives and to perhaps fail to realize that we are allowing our light to dim. Daily and weekly repentance and keeping Heavenly Father foremost in our thoughts isn’t hard per se, it just requires honest fidelity to what we know to be true and a willingness to put in the effort. Our lives are made up of individual parts and pieces that occasionally need to be examined and dusted as necessary so that we can shine as brightly as we are intended. I will always look at the celestial room chandelier and sconces with more appreciation, now knowing on a deeper level how the individual parts make up the whole in a dramatically beautiful way.
3. A temple is always a temple.
Though we were all showing up for cleaning, each volunteer was asked to arrive in respectful church attire. Upon arriving, we were given white clothing to wear that was comfortable and appropriate to the task, but was also clean and crisply white. We wore socks and slippers that were also white. We were divided into teams and given instructions before we set off to our individual tasks. Some of those instructions were for safety, and some were to maintain the reverence and sanctity of the temple. We were asked to keep our voices and our conversation appropriate to the temple.
The thought hit me very strongly that though the temple was closed for a time, it is still a dedicated temple and we treat it as such. There is a feeling of awe and reverence that was almost even increased when there were fewer people in the temple and it is quietly dormant.
In our lives, there might be times when we do not feel as bustling and happily busy as others. But we continue to maintain our divine role and attributes. A daughter or son of Heavenly Father is always a child of God, even in the quiet alone times and even in the darkest hour. He loves us, and He honors us as His children. The divinity is always within us and is not based on our current production or functioning capacity. It is who we are and what we are to become.
I bear testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for us, and His desire for us to be clean, to feel joy in our efforts, and His desire for us to return to Him. I’m grateful for the little times and ways that He blesses me to feel a little hug from Him through inspiration when I need it most.