You’ve probably heard that our home should reflect who we are and what we love. That’s great if we like what we see. But what if the reflection staring back at us scares us? GASP! What if our home tells us we are a complete disaster and we need to lose a lot of (ahem) excess clutter? GULP! Who wants to hear that? I mean, each of us is a little bit of a mess, but what if the image in the mirror is a complete train wreck?
Our house is supposed to be a sanctuary, and when it doesn’t reflect the peace and harmony we want, we feel as if we have failed housekeeping 101. It’s embarrassing. So we turn the mirror around and blame our spouse or our kids. If they weren’t so messy and would listen to us once in a while, this house wouldn’t be a disaster! I know. I’ve done it too. I’ve seen friends do it. There’s enough blame to go around. Of course, a lot of us also blame ourselves and are quick on the draw to shoot down our best intentions with guilt.
I remember one particular late morning, a few months after I had my second daughter, when I decided to work out instead of clean the house. It had been a while since I had tidied up, but waiting one more morning wasn’t going to hurt.
Or so I thought.
As I started to sweat, I was proud of myself for doing my workout video (bonus points!) and was certain I had made the right choice. That is, until I heard the doorbell ring and caught a glimpse of my neighbor standing on our front steps.
A quick look around the house proved what I already knew—my house was far from welcoming. Dishes were piled high, and laundry was everywhere. And I didn’t need a mirror to tell me I was a scary sight (and smell). My hair was in an unkempt ponytail, I hadn’t showered, and I had baby barf on my shoulder.
At that point, all I could do was duck under the table and hold my breath while hoping for the love of all things right in the world that my three-year-old wouldn’t go running to the door. It was a harrowing couple of minutes before my neighbor walked away. As I came out from hiding, I took a deep breath and nearly inhaled a big dust bunny.
How did I become this crazy woman hiding under the table? My house was not a reflection of the home I wanted to live in, and my actions did not reflect the person I wanted to be.
Yes, in that moment I probably should have set aside my pride, opened the door, and welcomed my neighbor inside. But then I would have apologized for the state of the house, pointing out the dirty dishes and the overflowing garbage can, and then explained (um, lied) that I was wearing threadbare Snoopy pajama pants only because my stylish workout pants were in the wash.
Obviously I didn’t give my neighbor a warm invitation to come in, but I regret even more that I didn’t give myself grace for the life season I was in. Double fail. I was a new mom with small children. I had just fed them, and they were happy and healthy.
We can be hard on ourselves for expecting our homes to be closer to perfect and then hard on ourselves again for not being content when they aren’t. When we try to find peace in unrealistic expectations of what our homes should be like, we perpetuate an endless cycle of guilt and shame.
But perhaps the tension of desiring perfection and finding contentment with what we have makes more sense than we realize. Maybe we aren’t so crazy after all. We just haven’t stopped to think about how we are designed.
What if the state of our home matters to us because the home we create is our art, and in our heart we really do want it to tell the story of who we are? When the sound of the doorbell tempts us to duck under the table, it is because we see our mess as a reflection of our failure. We feel as exposed as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they realized they were naked and reached for the nearest, largest leaves. We understandably don’t want to put that awkward moment of shame in our story (trust me on this), so we hide.
We were created in the image of God, so our desire for order makes perfect sense. I believe our longing for beauty hints at our identity as a reflection of our Creator rather than a flaw in our character. Our desire to improve our surroundings isn’t perfectionism.
Perfectionism is an unhealthy trait and never leads to contentment. But setting a healthy goal and striving toward it can help us learn new skills, pick ourselves up from a slump, grow to become the people we want to be, and make positive changes in our homes. When we feel uncomfortable with where we are, that can be just the inspiration and motivation we need to look for ways to turn our struggle into progress.
When we recognize the inner soul-struggle against the mess we face and understand why we want things to be put back together again, we can crawl out from under the table. Thankfully, our stories don’t end with us sprawled face down under a pile of laundry on our living room floor. In fact, our home stories are just beginning and are full of hope. Today is a new day. We can pick up our dreams and reset the course to a home that reflects who we want to be.
From Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels