This past week at my MOPS meeting, I sat at a table with six amazing women discussing clutter. We all have it – physical clutter, meaning the piles, the boxes, the shoes (my personal nemesis), the disorganized parts of our home. We all have that one closet we’d be horrified if someone opened, am I right?
I’ve never really thought much beyond what it physically is…stuff. Things. Junk. But as the seven of us shared and dug a little deeper into our clutter, some truths began to surface that went much deeper than piles of our children’s school work and that box of clothes we can’t let go of because “someday” we might fit back into it.
Our conversation shifted from Container Store bins and organizational tips to much bigger things like guilt and shame and vulnerability. There were common threads – the excessive amount of toys our children have that they don’t play with (that’s another blog post entirely…sheesh), the preschool drawings we can’t seem to let go of, the hoarding tendencies of family members, the hand-me-down pile-up, and the shame or anxiety we have over entertaining.
But what struck me the most was how this physical clutter and the shame we feel about all of our “stuff” has ultimately separated us from community with those around us and, more importantly, community with Jesus.
I grew up in a home where we had people over all the time. Weekends were a revolving door of friends, babysitters, and neighbors. I could walk two houses down to play with one friend and two blocks to play with another. I had several “bonus moms” whose license plate numbers I can still recite because that’s how much time I spent in their cars.
I realize now what a gift that was, but at the time, it was just normal. If I wanted to invite a friend to our house on a Saturday afternoon with 15 minutes notice, there were no great logistics involved. No one was concerned with how pristine and perfect the house was…we simply called their house, and if they were free, they showed up. Easy.
When did we make it so complicated?
If I think back to my time I spent as a child at my friends’ houses for sleepovers and whatnot, I literally have ZERO memories of mess. I have exactly zero memories of the décor and organization (or lack of) in my friends’ homes. (Okay, there was this one really creepy chicken statue that sat in one friend’s kitchen, and I only remember that because I felt like it was watching me all the time.)
As for clutter? I’m sure it was there, but do you know how much it mattered to me? Exactly ZERO percent. And I can assure you that my 1989 bonus moms did NOT waste their time cleaning counters and vacuuming floors right before five second graders descended for a sleepover. They simply knew better. They threw some sleeping bags, pizza, and Blockbuster videos out on the living room floor, and moved on with their lives. Ain’t nobody got time for the Dyson.
Here’s the thing, friends…if we say we value and long for authentic community, yet are not willing to open our lives and our homes to those around us because we have a few piles of clutter and our homes are not “perfect,” how can our neighbors truly feel comfortable enough to really connect with us? Nobody wants to be friends with the Cleavers. If we insist on waiting until we have the perfect home and perfect clutter-free life before we can invite people in, we’ll be waiting forever.
You know my absolute very favorite thing about Jesus? He loved a hot mess. Like me and you. He didn’t seek out the ones who had it all together, he sought out the imperfect. He used people who were alcoholics (Noah) and thieves (Zacchaeus) and prostitutes (Rahab) to spread the Gospel. Had he sought out the most holy, most sinless, most perfect people, honestly, who would’ve listened? I don’t know about you, but I’m much more moved and inspired by the stories of those who have overcome their sin and been redeemed through the Holy Spirit than by those who have never faced a struggle.
To be fair, vulnerability is hard, scary even, but it’s also a bridge. It’s at the heart of connection. To let people into our mess, into our struggle, and into our homes says to them, “It’s okay to be you. You don’t have to be perfect here.”
What freedom there is in that!
We don’t have to be perfect to spend time with the Lord, and we certainly don’t have to have it all together to invite others in. Don’t miss out on the joy of connection because you’re afraid of people seeing the real you. To be truly seen and known and accepted anyway, well, I’m not sure I can think of a greater gift.