It is another of those busy days, a Sunday. Our friends suggest dinner and we decline, too many loose ends to tie up before the work-week begins and too few hours to find some rest. And then we pick the phone back up again a moment later and un-decline, because the soul of our family cried out that we just need fellowship right now, more than rest and carefully tied-up ends.
It is the night that she comes in, on a tide of small children, looking weary. And she comments again about how clean our house is and how her’s isn’t and I wince because I see how she judges herself, this beautiful God-graced woman measuring herself up against a hastily vacuumed floor and cursory dusting.
And I am suddenly done with looking perfect on the outside and having others break by measuring themselves against what the outside image projects. I am done with breaking myself over the same thing, constantly coming up short because everyone else looks so much like they have it all together. Done with hiding my imperfections behind closed doors.
The truth? I don’t have it all together.
So as the kids are throwing cornmeal-crusted disks of pizza dough (moon-white wheels hang in the oven-warm night of the kitchen) and as laughter is ringing through the house, I lead my friend upstairs and take her to the place that’s not clean, to the bedroom door that stays shut when guests come over. I show her the laundry, unfolded. the shoes on the floor. The trash in the bathroom, overflowing. I show her the mess. I brave the fear of embarrassment, of rejection, and I show her the ugly because I am choosing, at that moment, to stop hiding behind a barrier of perfect.
Because somewhere in each of our lives there is a mess, an area of chaos that we just haven’t gotten around to yet. And I have been so quick to protect that, to hide it away and project a careful image of order, beauty, strength. Because who wants to talk about the ugly? And so we each end up looking at each other’s clean surface and convincing ourselves that we are worse off than everyone else, that the mess in our closet is that much uglier, that much more un-cleanable than the one in everyone else’s. And it drives us to hide it all the more, and to try to be even more perfect on the outside, and to judge ourselves harshly.
It leads us to forget who we are, who we really are in Christ.
The truth? It doesn’t really matter if my closet is a mess or if the bathroom trash needs taking out. It doesn’t matter…the stretch marks, the way my body has changed over the pregnancies and over the years, the way the laugh-lines crinkle when I smile. It doesn’t matter, the pain of the past and the ugliness of grief and the millions of ways that I don’t add up yet to what I’d like to be. What matters is that all the scars, all the messiness, all the ways in which I’m broken…they are all God-ordained. He gave them to me, and he will use them to his glory if I am not afraid to let him.
Our wounds, our scars, our ugly messes? Those weaknesses we hide, the ones we build walls around? They are warrior-weapons in the hands of a broken, wounded savior…the scarred hands of One who turns grief into laughter, weakness into strength, even death into life. They are the arrows that can pierce darkness with light, that can speak to another’s life and say: Forgiven. Loved. Accepted. Not because of any sort of perfect that ever came from me, but because of the one and only Perfect One who lives in me now. Why do we still doubt that he can use even our most ugly scars to his glory? Do we not trust him enough to give him all of who we are?
The depth of life that God created us to experience can’t be fully appreciated if we don’t let the dark colors show, if we whitewash over our lives in matching, neutral beige. I will not glory in the ugly, the messy, the painful scars. But I will glory in the One who can use them to make something new, to do something beautiful. And if that means sharing what I’d rather hide, well…come on in, let me show you my whole house. The beautiful, and the ugly, and everything in between.
Linking up with Emily Wierenga today…