Last weekend, I was doing some projects around the house, wondering if I’m ever going to get through the list I made for myself when I bought this place. Granted, it’s only been four months since I signed the papers, and since then, we’ve replaced the garage door, the attic insulation, the roof, the front and back insulated doors, my office door, the shower surround, bathroom sink and vanity, front porch light, and kitchen sink (coming this Saturday!). With a little help from my family, we painted the laundry room and kitchen, replaced most of the locks, and attached house numbers over the garage. In a couple of hours, when I’m done here at the computer, I’m going to finish polyurethaning all the interior doors of the house (I sanded them all down last weekend), and within another month or two, my dad will have replaced all the closet doors. I didn’t’ realize until this very minute what a big door issue I had! Then, we’ll be on to painting, hanging curtains, refinishing furniture, planting a garden, and on and on. The list of things we’ve done is impressive until I compare it with all that’s left to do. Owning a home is a lot of work.

As I was thinking about all these improvements that need to be done to the house, I was also realizing that if I plan to avoid costly repairs, I really need to do a better job at maintenance. I finally flushed Rid-X down into the septic system last week; that’s something I need to do monthly. I jotted it down on the calendar. Then I remembered the air filters for the furnace. They went on the calendar too. The carpets should be shampooed once or twice a year, and then there’s the weekly cleaning. Where will I find the time for all of this?

The words “maintenance,” “repairs” and “improvements” kept swirling through my head as I thougth about all there is to do. One helps to avoid the others; one remedies failures and problems; one makes everything else worth a little more.

Of course, “maintenance,” “repair” and “improvement” don’t apply just to homeownership.

With plans for sanding doors in my head last Saturday, I laid in bed a little longer than usual, finishing Ruth Haley Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms. While coming to the end of Barton’s words on spiritual disicplines and formation, I initially had the same panicked response as to the to-do list for my house. There’s not enough time. Then I realized the same principles of maintenance, repair, and improvement are at work in our spiritual lives. While Bible reading and prayer may need to be daily disciplines for me, fasting and solitude are more like monthly maintenance. Deep reflection and meditation function in my life as “repairs,” usually required if the daily maintenance has been ignored, and spiritual retreats and extended Bible study are occasional improvements to my life. They make everything worth a little more.

In the last few pages of Sacred Rhythms, Barton guides readers toward a “rule of life,” or a structure of disciplines by which we seek to live in Christ. “Living into what we want in any are of our life requires some sort of intentional approach,” she says. “The desire for a way of life that creates space for God’s transforming work is no different. However, if we look closely at the way we live day to day, we may well notice that our approach to spiritual transformation is much more random and haphazard than our approach to finances, home improvements and weight loss!”

As the house goes, so goes the soul. Maintenance, repair, and improvement.