It was the first time I didn’t even get the dust off of the furniture.
There are some baseline standards I like to reach before guests arrive at our home: floors swept and mopped and vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, dishes washed, toys and paper clutter put away, furniture dusted, a candle lit, and something tasty baking in the oven. It’s mostly about my pride and somewhat about my guests. I want to create a welcoming space, yes, and I want approval. Scads of it. No, seriously, tell me everything you love about my home. Sigh.
See, I want you to see me without my failures sprinkled about. And since I can’t talk about my promotion at work or my new exhibition at a local gallery or show you pictures from my latest overseas jaunt, I dust. I bake, I clean like mad the half hour before you arrive. This home is my canvas and I want you to approve of the effect.
It’s childish. And not in the cute way.
“She’s patiently waiting for you to notice her new dress”, whispered my friend to me, as her young daughter shifted her weight from foot to foot in the hush of the church lobby. I smiled; how I know that feeling.
“Wow! Your dress is so beautiful! Is it new?”
She beamed, she smiled down at her frock with a look of sheer pleasure and nodded.
We all want that, don’t we? Crave that approval, that admiration.
Well. It’s probably a good place to be right now; with dusty furniture and other humbling markers of domestic failure all about. The last few weeks have seen us adapting to our new little Tobi (and worrying through two health scares with him) and each of the children coming down with nasty colds. It feels like I never stop moving; I’m like a pinball being ricocheted from the laundry room to fold a load, to the diaper changing table to change a poo, to the bathroom to wash it out of the diaper, back to the table to throw the sopping diaper into the diaper bin, which I see is now full, back to the laundry room to start a load of diapers, running back to the dining room to stop Henri from plummeting out of his highchair, back to the kitchen to get a dishrag to wipe up spilled milk, detained there by the overflowing soup pot, and on and on. Dusting the furniture has been bumped WAY down the list of priorities.
And I’ve got it all backwards. Because you see, I was getting my house in order and beautiful so that I would be perceived as “in order” and “beautiful”, soul-deep. Like my home was an inanimate extension of, and physical evidence of, a put-together me. Why wasn’t I going straight to the source and working directly on beautifying my soul, rather than on the rooms that contain us, eternal us? This is, after all, just a house, but the souls within it? Eternal.
I am chronically short-sighted. I focus on the don’t-matters and leave the truly-matters to flap in the wind as they will. I see this in my parenting, and I shudder. I’ve hustled the herd to bed so that I could mindlessly scroll through the news feed; reading about other people’s lives and “liking” cute pictures of their kids while my own went to bed without my attention to their end-of-the-day thoughts.
Oh. So. Human.
It’s tempting to end this with a rousing appeal to my dear readers to join me in some challenge to become more holy and less prideful and some such. But God sometimes drops a heavy stone into our laps because He wants us to sit with it a while; not just figure out how to best roll it off without pinching our fingers. Let the heavy thing sit; learn the lesson deep and true; let the weight sink right into you. The weight for me? Seeing how much of me is still governed by securing the good opinion of others, and relatedly, how little of me is governed by securing God’s approval, God’s smile.
How is the dust laying round about the soul? Has anyone been mindful of the clutter in there? Is it in fit condition at all? Oh that I would care half as much for the daily maintenance of the eternal as I did for the temporal! Lord, have mercy!