Last year my daughter had a last-minute back-to-school swim party for her friends. I say last-minute because I finally agreed to set the date less than a week before we would have it, however, she had been asking to do this since before the last school year ended.
I finally agreed but was still so hesitant to say yes. I looked at the schedule and of all weekends, why this one? You see, this was the weekend of our first Friends and Family Day at church since before the COVID pandemic started. It was already a big weekend. Not only that, but it was our Back-to-School Bash that same day. I looked at the calendar and I worked all week, something this momma is still not used to after so many years of being a stay-at-home working momma.
Since school was going to start on Wednesday that also meant Nick was going to be at professional development days at school all day Thursday and Friday. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything and this tired momma just wanted to say no, maybe later, let's invite them after school starts. In fact, that is what I said and it was met with such a sincere, “It won’t be back to school then cause school will have already started.” Okay, you got me. I gave in and said yes.
So we invited all of her friends from school. Due to the last-minute nature of things, only a handful of them could make it, but the ones who did had a blast swimming for hours.
At one point, one of the young ladies commented on how pretty our yard was and I admit I had been having the same thoughts. My wonderful husband, after being gone all week to school, running kids to ball practice, guest speaking at another congregation's summer series, conducting a pre-marriage counseling session, and working on plans and responsibilities to take on his role as the first-ever guidance counselor for the school, had come home Friday evening from one of the long PD days and worked until nearly 10 pm on tasks he had no time to complete the rest of the week. All to get the yard ready for our daughter.
It looked beautiful. The house and porch were pressure washed. The porch furniture was freed from the season of bugs and cobwebs. The pool was vacuumed and cleaned. The yard was mowed and trimmed. A path was cleared so the girls didn’t have to walk through the cut grass to get to the pool. He assembled an umbrella so his pale-skinned wife could sit and watch the girls without getting burned. I was so proud of all the hard work he put into not only making it presentable but beautiful.
However, as I walked around the back of the house to take out a bag of trash, I could see the rest of the story. (Sorry honey for telling our secrets, but it’s about to get real.) Behind the house, I could see where the weed eating and trimming wasn’t finished. I could see odds-and-ends jobs where there was just not enough time to get it all done so that was what was left, untouched and unseen.
Then I thought about what I had been working on. After working all week, and still not being used to just how much time I need for projects and being able to adjust my new schedule to it, I had finished other jobs as well. I had come home to finish my work notes at home, gotten groceries for the party and for us, gotten supplies for the church for the fellowship meal, driven our kids to different places, and worked at the church packing the back-to-school bags (along with some very much appreciated helpers) then cleaning and prepping the buildings for Sunday until 10 pm Friday night.
I had gotten up Saturday morning and finished more notes, made another trip to the grocery for last-minute supplies, then came home and cleaned the inside of the house (while Nick was back at the church working again). I cleaned and cleaned. I worked on the kitchen and living room. I scrubbed the bathroom and was so proud looking around our house at how clean it was for the first time in too long. And now I will tell on myself because I know I am the only one who does this. I cleaned the main areas of the house and then closed the doors to the rest of the rooms. Like the backyard, I left so much of the house untouched and unseen.
I didn’t clean our bedroom or make our sons clean their rooms; no one would see those. I didn’t clean the office, no one would be in there. I didn’t have time, so I closed the doors. No one would know, right?
Isn’t that how we think about so many areas of our lives? We only clean what people will see. We pick and choose the right moments to post on social media. You know the ones, the bright shining, everything is just right family memories. We don’t share the dark struggles that are often our reality behind those closed doors. We sort through picture after picture to find the one we want to be our perfect representative to the world. We pick what we want others to see and close the door on the rest.
Too many times we tend to do the same thing with our hearts. We put on the smile; at work, at church, and with friends, but on the inside, we try to close the door to our anxiety, our depression, our jealousy, insecurity, anger, or whatever we don’t want the world to see. We cover up the feelings that we think are too messy to show to others.
Maybe we close the door to hidden sins. Maybe we try to shut away failures or mistakes that cause us to feel ashamed. And we try to show the world an image that we think is safe and we close the door on the rest.
The truth is that God sees behind closed doors. He sees the real you, the real me. He sees the mess that we try to keep hidden from the world. 1 Samuel 16:7b tells us, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God sees what’s inside and He loves us anyway. God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21, 1 Kings 8:39). We can’t close the door and hide our mess from God.
We have to work to clean where only God can see. Jesus warns us, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19. It is from the heart where our issues begin and so that is where the cleaning needs to start.
So, let’s start cleaning where no one else can see. God wants to help. We can start with sharing in the prayer of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. God wants to help us. God wants us to let go and rid our lives of the mess that brings us down and hinders us from the life He offers. Turn the mess over to God and trust Him.