“If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.” This old adage from the restaurant industry is frequently attributed to managers at McDonald’s. The idea is that if you are a fast food employee and are not particularly busy at the moment, then instead of just sitting around – or leaning – grab a broom, mop or washcloth and start cleaning something. In a restaurant things can get dirty in a hurry so you constantly need to clean up.
You can apply this to your spiritual life too. Unless you were born without original sin – and nobody reading this can make that claim unless your name is Jesus or Mary – then your sole constantly needs cleaning too. The phrase “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean” definitely applies. Or you may prefer this variation that I’ve been thinking about lately: “If there’s time to stray, there’s time to pray.”
A priest once told me in confession to think about prayer and sin on a scale.
His point was that if you pray more, you’ll sin less. I think my response was something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re right!” Take a moment to ponder what your scale would look like.
Just think about all the times throughout the week when your mind strays. And it doesn’t just mean you’re straying from the Ten Commandments or having sinful thoughts. It may just be idle times when you aren’t thinking about anything in particular. Or maybe you should be thinking about your responsibilities like work or school but your mind keeps getting distracted. Why not fill at least some of those moments with prayer?
In some ways, prayer is similar to exercise. Unfortunately sometimes it can be far too easy to make excuses not to do either of those. You know that you’re supposed to exercise (and pray) regularly, but you just don’t have the time because your life is too busy. Or you don’t feel like exercising (or praying) because you’re just too tired. The excuses go on and on.
Snap out of it! If there’s time to stray, there’s time to pray. No matter how busy life seems to be, there is always time if you make an effort to find it. Think about all those mundane tasks during which you could get in some prayer time:
- Using the bathroom
- Lying in bed trying to fall asleep
- Climbing the stairs or riding the elevator
- Waiting in line at the grocery store, bank or anywhere else
- Waiting on hold
- Waiting for your computer to boot
If your mind does wander into inappropriate territory, we all know that sinful thoughts can lead to sinful actions. So as soon as those wrong ideas start to pop into your head, you can overpower them and drown them out with prayer.
Restaurants that try to keep their kitchens, storage areas and dining rooms as clean as possible have a better chance of keeping their customers and health inspectors happy. I suppose that’s the culinary industry equivalent of heaven.
Just the same, people who hunger to keep their minds and souls as clean as possible have a better chance of keeping the Lord happy and meeting him one day in heaven.