From my front door, you can see only the parts of my house that aren’t “lived in.” Throw pillows like postage stamps are positioned neatly on the corners of the spotless sofa. Three matching candles perch perfectly in a line on the coffee table, their waxy wicks remain a pristine white.
I welcome visitors with a plastered smile and over-enthusiastic hello as they’re eyes take in the row of happy family milestones collected in frames on the mantel. We exchange “how are you’s,” and share light conversation, and casual goodbyes and “hope to see you soon’s.”
Then I go behind the wall to the rooms where I live my life in; where dirty dishes are haphazardly heaped in the sink; the pile of books mingle with a coffee stained mug on the side table; shapeless throw pillows rest lazily beside a blanket on a soft worn couch. You see the training potty with a neglected pair of Elmo panties crumpled beside it, and possibly a puddle of pee inside the pink plastic bowl. You see the red wine stain still peaking through on the carpet, and the dog hair collected in corners and beneath furniture.
On any given day I wouldn’t invite just anyone to step inside my messy world. When I invite a friend over, I tidy it up a bit, vacuuming up the crumbs and hiding the clutter in an effort to show a more polished version of myself. It is only if someone stays a while, and examines closely, that they will see the drawer bursting with discarded mail or the crayon scribbles on the wall.
As a little girl my mom would buy me paper dolls for long road trips. I would excitedly scan through the pages of delicate faces and elaborate clothing, awaiting the moment that we would pack into the car with our pillows and snacks and my mom would allow me to tear them out. But as I peeled out each doll and folded the clothes over their flimsy bodies, I began to feel disappointed. I couldn’t run my fingers over her silky curls or feel the sandpaper texture of her tulle tutu between my thumb and forefinger. It felt as though I pretended to play with dolls rather than truly playing with dolls–leaving me feeling unsatisfied with a replicated version of the real thing.
As my paper thin exterior begins to tear from the pressures of real life, I begin to wonder what would happen if I tore down the divide between my messy world and the postcard of my reality. What would happen if I became the kind of friend, that let others into my inner sanctum? What if I became the kind of friend that walked into your family room on a Tuesday afternoon, sat on your couch covered in dog hair, and drank coffee from a chipped mug and…just…stayed a while? We might both feel exposed and self-conscious for a minute, but then what? Would we feel understood? Unburdened?
Recently I’ve had a friend that has been pressing on our relationship, trying to push past my front door to the parts of me that I keep tucked away from the exposing gaze of others. Initially, I wanted to stand in front of the door and keep her in a part of my life that was safe and tidy. To play a game of paper dolls. But, as I began to let down walls and to show her my messes, I began to grow, and so did our relationship. I began to realize that all of us have messy piles of past mistakes, corners with the sticky cobwebs of regret, and self-doubt that clings to us like a layer of dust. It’s when we dig in and dig deeper that we till the soil, and plant the seeds for a relationship that scratches past the surface.
God also has a way of putting pressure on our relationship with him. He humbles us and He asks us the hard questions that leave us exposed. He doesn’t want mass produced, false paper cut-outs of Christians, but He wants us for the people He made us to be, flesh and bone, bruised and imperfect. He challenges us to live a life that digs deeper than Christian platitudes like, “I’ll pray for you!” and “God bless!” He calls us to look plainly at our broken world and go about the mission of repairing it — with dirt under our finger nails, and with simple things likes bread and wine, with water, and with a warm jacket, a homemade meal, and a chipped mug of hot coffee shared over a real conversation.
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