In the backyard of our parsonage sits a little shed. It is small and imperfectly built. Yet, it has always had a certain charm. I have imagined that a man who lived here built it with materials that he could find for cheap or free, that he built his wife a sewing room or himself a good place to store his treasures. Maybe it has always just been a nice spot for a lawn mower and boxes of Christmas decorations, which is what we use it for.
Whatever it was originally built to do, it wasn’t created to be pretty.
But, I had a plan to change all that. Because everyone who drives down our street can see the not-so-attractive shed in the backyard. And, I decided that I was going to make this nondescript boring shed into a cheery spot in our neighborhood. So, I bought a can of paint, recruited my mother to help, and in just one day, the shed was transformed.
I spent a lot of time dressing up our little shed. I painted its face and put pretty jewelry on it. I tried to make it a little more appealing to people who drive past our house. I thought that if I could only make it look more like a little cottage in our backyard instead of a rusty old shed, that it would somehow make a difference in the world around it.
But, you know what? It isn’t really any different. Inside, it’s still the same old spider-webby shed filled with Christmas wreaths and weed-eaters. The outside may look pretty, but the inside is still just a storage spot for ordinary meaningless nothings.
I find myself operating in a shed-like manner on Sunday mornings. You know those mornings, when the kids can’t find their shoes, when my bed is strewn with 14 outfits that I tried on and rejected. Mornings when the my thoughts are focused on how we look, how the pastor’s family is perceived, how these shoes just will not do with their scuffs, how the children move so slow that we’ll never make it in time. Mornings when I hardly speak a civil word to my kids because we-are-running-late-and-we-must-appear-perfect-at-all-times-so-hurry-up-and-I-don’t-have-time-for-your-stories-or-questions-or-jokes.
And not a single thought comes to me about God or about what He wants to do in our lives today or in the life of our amazing church. But, we look good. My face is painted and the jewelry is on and the children have not a hair out of place. We look as if we are properly turning our eyes to the cross on a grateful glorious Sunday morning. But, inside me is just ordinary meaningless nothing. Just thoughts about outfits. Frustrations about lost hairbows. And a whole lot of thinking about myself.
So, with my apologies to my cute-i-fied new blue shed, I think that I would rather look grey and rusty on the outside next Sunday, but open to presence and beauty of a Holy God, than to be painted and jeweled and so focused on myself that I am both empty and full of my own nonsense.
Don’t worry, on most Sundays I do better. On most I have the right focus. On most Sundays I at least try to remember what this whole thing, this day, this life, this God, is about.
But, I do have my shed-like days.
I think I’m really going to enjoy looking out my kitchen window this winter and seeing my adorable blue shed in the backyard. And, I hope when I see it I’ll remember the truth, that dressing up a shed or a person doesn’t change what’s inside. I pray that I care more about what’s going on in my heart and in the hearts of my kids than I do in how long it takes Sawyer to put on a pair of socks on a Sunday morning or what anyone may think if we’re ten minutes late. It’s better by far to prayerfully prepare myself for worship than to find the perfect pair of leggings which must be in my closet someplace.
For God does not see as man sees, for the man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7