Years ago, whenever we were having company, I would try to clean the whole house at once. And I do mean whole.
I wouldn’t just vacuum and dust and scrub and scour. I would also organize the cupboards under the sinks and re-stack the clothes in the closets so they looked neat and tidy. All because we were hosting play group. Or we had invited another family over to grill out.
I’m not really sure why I pushed myself so. It’s not like I expected the woman crossing the threshold of my house to do an inspection, after she arrived. In fact, I probably would have been offended if she actually did go investigate closets and cupboards.
The Lipstick Stain
One day, just five minutes before our play group was to arrive, I went up to my sparkling clean master bedroom and found that my baby had ground a tube of lipstick into the carpet. My reaction matched that of a woman whose roof had just been torn off. I threw my hands up in frantic disbelief and started crying.
There it was–proof that my house was not clean–in a glaring shade of red.
I’m not exactly sure what I was worried would happen. Did I think the other moms were going to file, one by one, up to my bedroom and stand in a solemn ring around the lipstick stain? Would they stand there, pointing at the stain and say, “Shannon, we’ve decided it’s time for an intervention. This has gone on long enough,”?
What a ludicrous idea! I have never, in my entire lifetime, had even one friend point out something that needed to be cleaned in my house. Not one.
So where did this anxiety come from? I Peter 5:6-7 gives me a clue. “Humble yourselves, therefore…. casting all your anxieties on him.”
See how humility and relieving myself of anxiety are linked? It’s my pride that often causes me anxiety. I worry about what people will think, or how I will measure up in their eyes. I want to be esteemed and admired. I want to stand out in a good way. Do you ever want to stand out in a good way?
I’ll never forget going to my friend, Jane’s* house. It was during that stage of life when all of the families in our group of friends were having one baby after another, and it was hard to find time to get the kids dressed, let alone get your kitchen floor scrubbed.
Jane was kind enough to host a fancy adults-only dinner party. We all hired babysitters, got dressed up, and brought a dish to pass. It was such a treat. And though I remember enjoying the warm camaraderie, laughter, and conversation that evening, two things made a lasting impression:
Jane’s microwave and her closet.
I went to warm up something in Jane’s microwave, and when I opened the door it looked like home to me in there. It was completely crusty and messy. I loved the fact that Jane hadn’t found time to clean her microwave.
Then, I spilled something all over myself, and Jane sweetly offered, “Just go up and find some of my pants to change into.” So I went up to Jane’s closet and it looked like home, also! She had obviously shoved all of the clutter in there to get ready for company.
Back downstairs, Jane was smiling and serving and happy. There wasn’t even the slightest flicker of anxiety on her face. I loved what I saw in Jane that night. I loved the way humility–not obsessing over what others thought–freed Jane to be hospitable, and open her door to deep friendships.
Over the years, I’ve learned to relax about my house–which my family especially appreciates. If you came to my house today, chances are the microwave would be crusty. The closets would be messy. And who knows what you’d find under my sink. But you would be welcome.
I’m so thankful that friends like Jane have taught me to relax my standards a bit–especially during demanding seasons of motherhood. And I’m beyond thankful to my Lord, who invites me to cast all of my cares on him. This frees me to open my door with a smile, and serve my friends, even in the middle of a mess.
** I changed Jane’s name, but not because she’s super private or anything. In fact, I’ll bet she’d let you see her closet if you stopped by. 🙂