I was 31 when I got married. This is something that’s not uncommon these days – so why do I even bring that up? I bring it up because I was a bachelor for 13 years – and I was pretty good at it. I stayed up late – got up late – didn’t have to be responsible for anyone but me… I cleaned house when I wanted to – which was pretty much never. I did laundry, dishes, and changed sheets at least once every Presidential election (that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). I lived in my mess – for the most part I was comfortable with my mess – because it was my mess (and it didn’t affect anyone else)… on a side note, my wife swears I would’ve been on the television show, Hoarders by now had she not “rescued” me.
The only times I really thought about doing a serious clean were when either my parents were coming up or the rare occasion I had company over (which part of being a bachelor is the fact you get invited to other people’s house for dinner way more than you have people over). My parents would typically give me ample notice they were coming for a visit so I would have plenty of time to plan my decontamination strategy. There were a few times, however, when they got up on a Saturday morning and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about coming to Norman today, are you free?” To which I would always respond – “Sure!” – then realize I had 3 hours and 15 minutes (the travel time from my parents house to my house) to perform a miracle…
So, what did I do? I took care of the most “visible” problem areas. I got a trash bag and started in the living room. I threw away papers and wrappers, vacuumed (so I would have those pretty little vacuum lines on my carpet). I went to the kitchen – loaded the dishwasher to full capacity – on occasion I put plates and cups (that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher) in a box and hid it – I’ve even thrown away dishes before… (don’t judge me please) I would clean the bathroom in the main hallway – the one they would use – then it was on to my room. Usually by this point, I was running short on time, so I would do the only thing I could do at the time to make it even look presentable, should my parents walk in my room. I shoved whatever was in the floor under the bed and in the closet – telling myself I would deal with it after my parents left… because again – I wanted my house to have the “appearance” that everything was okay… My parents would come, usually make a comment like, “Oh, the house looks nice…” I think knowing I had been frantically trying my best to make it look presentable for them. I would pray they didn’t look in my closet or under my bed – because then they would see the “mess” their son lived in. This fear of them seeing my mess probably kept me from fully being comfortable whenever we were in the house, because it was always in the back of my mind at some level. Looking back – I don’t think I really fooled them, the only one I was really trying to fool was myself…
So, after my parents left, I would immediately go to the closet and under my bed, get the dishes out of boxes, and take the time for a real clean so I wouldn’t have this situation again… OH WAIT – That’s exactly what I DIDN’T do… What I would actually do is look around and tell myself, “Man, it looks a lot better in here” and then start the process over again. And next time, there wouldn’t be as much room under the bed or in the closet – and then at some point in time – I would open my closet or look under my bed and become overwhelmed and think, “How in the world did it get this messy?” There is no way I can even attempt to truly “fix” this. I would experience feelings of shame and guilt (I know this sounds a little dramatic, but when you’re alone, and have to face your mess – you know, the one you’ve been comfortable living in), these are the thoughts that flood your heart and your mind – but I’m not talking about underneath beds and closets now, am I? But I think you probably already know that…
BECAUSE – isn’t this how life is. We all have messes – we all have areas, that to be honest, we’ve become comfortable with – mainly because it’s our mess. When someone tries to come into our “living place” we try our darndest to give off the appearance that everything is OK – we shove stuff under the bed and into the closet – because we don’t have the time or the energy to deal with it – and we sure as heck can’t be vulnerable and let those who actually want to be in our living space get a glimpse into our real life – because they would think less of us and wouldn’t want to be around us… So we play the game, clean up the outside – promising ourself we’ll deal with it later – and then when later comes, we get overwhelmed, we feel trapped, we feel helpless, and we look in the closet of our soul and think, “How did it ever get this messy?”
So what is the solution? It’s simple – and yet the hardest thing you’ll ever do – at the same time YOU BECOME VULNERABLE – YOU LET PEOPLE IN… and here’s what I’ve found – those that love you aren’t afraid of your messes! On the rare occasions my parents did make it to the house and it was filthy – my mom jumped right in and started cleaning – better than I ever could’ve on my own. She didn’t scold me or tell me she was ashamed of me… Another defining moment – when I was engaged to Amy and I was trying to sell my house in order for us to find the house we would live in when we got married – she came to the house for a deep clean… it was excruciating for me – I was embarrassed – I had cleaned it somewhat before she even came over to clean – you know, the clean before the clean (kind of like flossing your teeth 7 times a day a week prior to your dentist appointment)… but what did she do? She cleaned – I do think it scared her a bit …but she cleaned. She wasn’t afraid of my mess – because she loved me.
And that’s how we begin to heal and then deal with the hurts, messes, scars, disappointments, mistakes, etc… in our life. We don’t let our messes define us. We don’t let the junk in our closet and under our bed keep us in a prison of guilt and shame. We shine a light on it. Or maybe another way I could state it – we shine the light on it… We let others in – we let God in. We begin to see that as others are helping us clean up our messes, we are actually many times helping them clean up their messes too – and a lot of times we don’t even realize it.
Now here’s the deal – I still struggle with this from time to time (not the closet and under the bed thing… I’ve actually experienced a lot of growth in that area – not perfect by any means – but nonetheless, growth) But I still struggle with vulnerability. I still struggle with wanting everyone around me think I have all my stuff together – partly, because I’m a pastor – but mainly because I’m insecure… And the enemy would love for my insecurity to define me. For shame to define me. For mistakes to define me. For fear to define me… and I bet you have your own list as well. But as I continue to look to the Cross – as I continue to look to those that God has placed in my life, to live/experience life with – they want, let me rephrase, they need me to be vulnerable… because all these things build walls – they cause us to isolate – they cause us to withdraw – and that is not the life God would have for us to experience.
The sooner we understand that we are broken people experiencing life with broken people, the better off we’ll be. Then understanding that a perfect God uses broken people to bring hope and healing to us and we in turn do the same for others. Then understanding in the midst of our brokenness the Cross has made us FLAWLESS…
I’m going to close this post with a sing/video that has been speaking to me a lot lately. It deals with some of the very things I’ve blogged about here – take the time to watch and listen – I’ve posted the lyrics below – let them sink in.
May God continue to be your treasure (Matthew 13:44-46)
There’s got to be more Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong ‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do
Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace
No matter the bumps No matter the bruises
No matter the scars Still the truth is
The cross has made The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain Still the truth is
The cross has made The cross has made you flawless
Could it possibly be That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did
No matter what they say Or what you think you are
The day you called His name He made you flawless
He made you flawless