It was just a few hours before they would arrive for dinner. A family from church would be coming over. They had never been to our home before. I honestly was a little stressed, as I typically am before guests arrive. My house is not fancy or big or full of Pottery Barn decor. I, like many of you, lead a hectic life, with a lot on my plate. I don’t always keep my house as tidy as I should. What if they see a dusty end table? A stray sock in the living room? A sink full of dishes? What will they think? More important, what will they think of me?
I bet some of you can relate. You want everything to be in its place. You want to give the impression that you’ve got things together. Surely if my house is not up to standard they will think I am lazy and will judge.
“We need to vacuum and dust and get the laundry off of the sofa. Someone needs to get on their hands and knees and look under the sofa and all of the furniture. They have little kids; they will find everything. Make sure your room is clean. Tidy up the porch. I’ll clean the refrigerator. Make sure the dishes are put away.”
There was no shortage of commands to be handed out that day. Everyone had a job to do. I am not exactly sure why I thought that it was important to clean the refrigerator. Who in the world is going to be looking inside of my refrigerator? But, you never know, so better to be safe than sorry. What utter lunacy!
“Mom, where do you want me to put all of this laundry that is on the sofa? I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty. It’s not folded?”
“Just put it on my bed and be sure to close the door. I’ll figure it out later”
And with five minutes remaining until arrival, I gave one final run through. All looks well. Okay, I think we are done. I could finally breathe a bit.
“They’re here. They’re here.” And with that we opened the door and welcomed our friends inside. The dads and kids went sleigh riding across the street, while the moms stayed inside and chatted. We would share dinner and dessert and enjoy some wonderful conversation and fellowship.
At one point in the evening I excused myself to head upstairs. Our first floor restroom was out of service due to some renovations. So everyone had been directed to make their way to the second floor if need be. Our house is kind of small. When you reach the top of the stairs you have a bedroom to your left, right, and directly in front of you. The bathroom is in the hallway off of the master bedroom. As I made the turn toward the bathroom I paused and there before my eyes was a gigantic, mountainous pile of clothes. My bedroom door had been left open for all the world to see. I tilted my head back and dropped my shoulders. There was no mistaking the fact that everyone had seen it. I was kind of mortified.
So, I went downstairs and looked at my friend, “So, I guess you saw my huge pile of laundry. Sorry about that. I just didn’t get around to it.”
I call her response that followed “the most beautiful words any mother has ever said to me.” They are words that have been etched in my mind and continue to warm my heart each time I think of them.
“Oh, I was so glad to see that. It is beautiful. I just wish that the pile was bigger.”
I wanted to cry…cry tears of joy. With those few words I felt all of that pressure to be “together” dissipate. My huge pile of laundry made both of us feel normal.
I began to tell her of the craziness that had occurred just before her arrival. How I wanted to make sure that everything was just so. Why do women do this? Because we wonder what people will think. I tried my best to give the impression of togetherness, but my “dirty laundry” was still visible for all to see. As moms we try to measure up, and we endlessly compare ourselves to the next woman…to her home, her kids, her clothes, her cooking, her whatever. We feel inadequate and view everyone else as “super mom”. It is so destructive.
After this little episode the Lord began to show me that outward appearances do not always represent reality. Someone who appears to have it all together on the outside may very well be a mess on the inside. And vice versa. People have a tendency to do exactly what I did: they paint a picture that they want the world to see. Oh, they likely have some “dirty laundry” that they want to remain hidden, but regardless of how well it is stowed away, it’s still there.
How thankful I am that the Lord is not concerned about the outer man. The inner man, the heart and soul of a man, the part that no one can see, is what really concerns our Lord. The Lord sees through walls and facades; He is not tricked by our outward efforts to appear “with it”. He is not impressed by fancy homes or beautiful things or finely coiffed hair. Fine clothes and fancy cooking are of no worth. The Lord looks at the heart.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with keeping a lovely home or having nice things. We are certainly not called to be slobs either. It again all comes down to our hearts. What is our motivation? Is it to impress people? Is it to make sure people think that we have got it all together?
I urge you not to do that to yourself. Do not compare. Do not assume that everyone else but you has it all together. Be concerned with your heart, for your inner man, for that is the Lord’s concern as well.