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Clean Sweep

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead . . . Philippians 3:13

Ever get a sand burr stuck in your skin? The burr tenaciously grabs onto a tender layer of dermis and even when pulled out, a teeny bit sticks behind in an irritating bump. Burr dock is even worse. Tangle with one of those, and you’ll be forever picking little bits of it out of your hair, clothes, skin, and shoes. Worse yet is when your horse gets its tail completely matted with burr dock. It takes forever and a day to remove them. The process is long and sometimes painful for the animal as each strand of hair has to be pulled and teased out of the clutches of the tenacious and terrible burrs.

Our past can be equally as tenacious, the barbs lodged into our psyche, the acts remembered with sorrow, shame or embarrassment. There are always people ready to bring it up and throw it in our faces. If you don’t believe me, just go to a high school reunion. Everything you did, the person you were forty years ago, is marched out like tin toys. Reunions are best described as strange and artificial. Old schoolmates can be just as shallow and mean as they were decades earlier. But it’s not just old acquaintances who will try to manipulate us by reminding us of ‘the time when’. Sometimes it’s the people with whom we are closest who are most ready to sling the mud.

My past failings do not define me, but they do teach me. I believe it’s important to acknowledge our errors, but it’s equally important to press on without allowing the baggage to warp how we see ourselves or others. I have hope in my future, I look forward to walking the path laid for me long before I existed. I forget what lies behind, I reach forward to what lies ahead.


This old vacuum rolls over carpet and wood

in roar and whir, zooming room to room,

sweeping the day, sweeping time, inhaling

memories lodged in crevices and corners,

bits of man and beast, children, friends,

dogs, cats, even the horse, his dander caught

on a boot, tracked under the roof, inhaling

years of laughter, years of tears.

I sweep. Sweep the past, sweep aside,

sweep the field, am swept up in passion or

delight, things swept under the rug, swept out

the door, swept by the wind.

This mundane chore,

Sweeping the floor.

I like it clean.

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