Tonight the sweet mama who is going to get my house all sparkling clean for my Christmas open house arrived to survey the situation. She wanted to see the house before estimating the cost of cleaning it. Now, I have had someone come and clean my house twice in my life, and both times I cleaned before they got here so that they wouldn’t know the full extent of our slobbishness. I think I just invented a word.
But, this time was different. She wanted to come over and judge just how nasty we actually are before deciding how much this job was worth to her. And, something about that thought just completely freaked me out. I cleaned and decorated and desperately led her away from the closed laundry room door: Oh, that’s just the laundry room. You won’t have to worry about anything in there. When she rang the doorbell, I was so tempted to say, Oh, hello, I had forgotten you were coming. Why, yes, our house always looks like no children live here.
I wanted so much for her to walk in and think that this was going to be a breeze of a job. I wanted her to be impressed by my casually placed best foot forward. Despite the fact that I was slightly out of breath and a little wild eyed when I opened the door, I was hoping that she would perceive that I was terribly non-chalant about my pre-cleaned house, as if it’s always that way. So, with a proverbial shove of some stuff into a closet (and possibly some literal shoving of stuff into a closet), I presented her with my most competent, cool, calm self, and I waited for her to be impressed.
She is such a sweet, sweet woman.
She looked around my house politely. She followed me room by room while I said profound things like, …and this is the kitchen. She never made mention of the miraculous picked up and straightened quality that my house momentarily possessed. She didn’t seem all that enamored by my just-moments-ago-scrubbed toilets. Just an hour earlier my house had been a complete shambles. If a robber had come in and ransacked the place, I doubt we would have even noticed. She smiled her endearing smile and quoted her price and we agreed on a time for her to come back and work her magic.
As I said goodbye, I shut the door and turned to look at my oddly neat house. And it suddenly reminded me of myself.
It reminded me of many a Sunday morning, when I have yelled at the kids for an hour before church. When I have nagged about shoe choice and teeth brushing and have felt anything but spiritual. When I have walked in the door upset with my pastor husband over something silly. When I have heard a discouraging word from a well-meaning church member. When I am overwhelmed. When I am just about as ransacked inside as my kid-packed house on any given Monday afternoon. Yet, I put on my shiniest pastor’s wife smile and I present myself in church, with these falsehoods emitting from my spirit: Why, yes, I do always have Jesus in mind when I make decisions. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am a harbinger of all goodness and grace and mercy. All the while I know that the truth is that I am a mess. I have stuff shoved in closets just like everyone else.
And, somehow we have all let ourselves become convinced that Jesus and the church want to see the cleaned up version of us. So, we smile and we hide everything away that might reveal a little too much of where we really are. And because we don’t see or understand each other’s burdens, we can’t bear them together. Even today, if I had let the sweet cleaning mama see the REAL way that we live, I have no doubt that she would’ve kindly wrapped an arm around me and said, Oh, honey. You need help. I’m here for you.
It’s time to throw open some closet doors. It’s time to dig some stuff out from under the bed. It’s time to be honest with husbands and wives and friends and confidants. The Christian life is hard. And, we’re all struggling in our own ways. This road to Christ-likeness wasn’t designed to be impressive. It is meant to be humbling. It is built to be a reminder that our hearts aren’t beautifully decorated and ready for company. They are dark and disgusting, and they desperately need to be cleaned up by the only One who has the power to change us. We shouldn’t walk around trying to act like the job is done, like we’re ready to give tours now and show off just how good we are. It’s a long process, sanctification, and it ain’t pretty.
No one has arrived. Least of all me.
I am so happy that this dear mother is going to show up at my fake-cleaned house in a few days and give it an honest-to-goodness scrubbing. And, when one of us ends up spilling something sticky on our perfectly clean floors, I’ll sigh and remember that nothing in this world is perfect except Jesus Christ. And I need Him desperately, even when I pretend otherwise. He is cleaning me up, moment by moment. It’s a dirty job, but He’s the only one who can do it.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10