A fresh jolt of reality, opening my eyes to just how much I woefully underestimate Him…That’s what the last couple of months have been. It’s thrilling and deeply humbling to have any small part of God’s intricate and perfect plans. Plans that have been years and years in the making and we get to be here to witness some of the most nail biting moments culminating in God being glorified in new ways and in new lives. I don’t say this lightly. I know all this joy and excitement comes at great cost and loss to some. Mixed with the joy and peace of discovering God’s amazing Grace and all that they gain with that, they will suffer tremendous heartache and upheaval in everything they’ve ever known. But He is worth it. Oh, so worth it.
I almost missed it. I almost missed getting to see and share in this experience because of a dirty bathroom.
Yes. A dirty bathroom.
Well, not one dirty bathroom specifically, but I’ve dragged my feet on opening our home to host groups regularly because I was certain I would be judged. Judged because my house is not immaculately clean. Those who know me best know I was a hopeless mess as a kid. I believe there is a photo of my bedroom in middle school where you can’t actually see the floor. Thankfully, I’m a far cry from that now but I was teased mercilessly for it when I was young and I think I’m now sensitive to the issue of a messy home. I do the best I can but we’re a busy family with school to be taught, errands to run, people to feed, and friends to do life with. We also live in an exceedingly beautiful place. I’d far rather go have an adventure than deep clean my house. I blame God. If His creation wasn’t so amazing my house would be cleaner. Kidding. I know I’m responsible but when you live in a place like this how can I be expected not to play hookie to enjoy it?
I’m not, by nature, the most organized person, and my home reflects that. Things get scrubbed and sorted and purged, but on any given day there is likely to be a pile of mail needing sorting on the counter, kids dishes left on the table from breakfast (don’t worry, I totally get around to cleaning those up….when I set the table for dinner), toys on the floor, a full week’s worth of clothing on Lilly’s bedroom floor (all of which she wore today) under which are hiding many tiny legos to inflict puncture wounds should you choose to enter, and even if I swept five minutes ago I guarantee you there will be crumbs on the floor. If it’s been more than five minutes since I swept it will be enough crumbs to feed a small army. Entropy has a stronghold in our house.
About a year ago I relayed a story in which I didn’t come off very well as a parent. The friend I was talking with responded “That surprises me. You always seem like you have it all together.” At first I was highly amused but that gave way to mortification as I realized that, living far away, this friend primarily keeps up with me through my blog. Was I carefully tailoring some inaccurate image of myself and our family through which stories I choose to share? Am I portraying a lie? Am I worried people will judge me for being a bad parent if I share our stories of parental screw-ups?
The issue of feeling like I can’t play host to groups in our home is directly tied to those fears of being judged by others. Am I controlling what others see so they won’t think less of me? I don’t think it was conscious but looking back over patterns I realized it was true. In today’s media centered world it’s easy to tailor what people see and hear about you. But I don’t want to be one of those people. I’ve made facebook posts about a great run but have I ever posted “I haven’t run in a month and I just ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s finest!” Probably not but that’s almost certainly a true story from my life.
I’ve also realized that those people who post pictures of their perfectly designed/perfectly clean/perfectly everything homes, kids, and lives? I don’t really want to be friends with them. That may sound harsh but…really. My life is imperfect enough without being held up to some impossible standard that will only serve to remind me that I am a failure as a wife and mother if I don’t have a magazine worthy home, while doing pinterest projects with my kids, and feeding them food exclusively from the latest fad diet regimen.
The truth of our lives is that we love each other deeply and drive each other crazy. We make big messes and whine about cleaning them up. And after they’re cleaned up we make new messes. We are dedicated to eating healthy until we drive by In-n-Out while cranky-hungry after church (seriously…our church is at the WORST time! I’m ALWAYS cranky-hungry after church!). In all of our imperfections we’ve decided that opening our home to others is more important than whether we fear people will judge us for our messy, loving, crazy, sometimes healthy, sometimes junk food life.
I had to learn to let go. If I tried to have a perfect home I’d be too busy, tired, and depressed (at my colossal failure) to open our home to others. And if I continued to worry what others thought, it turns out I would have missed out on some truly amazing experiences with some truly amazing women. As we learn and grow together I am continually humbled by the glimpses we get of what God is doing right here where we live. In this hard place and hard time with so many odds stacked against us I’ll admit I’ve despaired at times. Despaired that God’s truth wouldn’t be able to find it’s way through the darkness to help a drowning people into the freedom and rest they so desperately need. By opening my messy home, I’m witnessing firsthand that what seem to be formidable obstacles to us are truly nothing to Him. I know in my head that God is at work in ways that we don’t see but my impatient heart still easily looses hope when I don’t see things happen in the timing I would like. I’m learning daily that when all that behind-the scenes work God does comes forward in His timing and we get to see the fruits of it…there is nothing else like it. God can accomplish his purposes with or without me but I’m sure thankful that, once I laid aside my pride and fears over being judged, He has given me the chance to see and share in His work. His mercies are most certainly new every morning, He is always faithful, and our joy is abundant and complete in Him.
Do you have something you need to let go of in order to experience abundant joy?