Invite Them Into The Mess

This was originally a guest post I wrote for another blog that no longer exists. After several conversations with friends on this topic, I decided it was ready for a re-run.

It was one of those hilarious miscommunications that can happen in marriage. My husband and I had agreed to invite a couple over for dinner sometime during the week. He asked me what time would be good, and, thinking he meant in a general sense, I replied that around 6 pm would be fine. 

Later that evening, as I was getting our baby ready for bed, my husband said casually, “So they should be here in about thirty minutes; should I start dinner?” I looked at him, mouth agape, saying, “You didn’t say they were coming today!” And I proceeded to hurriedly dress and feed the baby and jump into the kitchen to start cooking.

They soon arrived, and I finished cooking dinner while talking with the wife. The bathroom wasn’t cleaned, and the living room was littered with toys and books and half-folded laundry. But it didn’t really matter. Andrew set the table, we played with their baby, and dinner was a sweet time of conversation and laughter.

And I remembered – I don’t need my home to be perfect before inviting people in.

Rewind further back to a time in my life when my heart was also messy and littered with selfishness, compassion fatigue, and arrogance. I craved meaningful relationships, yet was so afraid to let my mask drop and allow people to see who I really was. But slowly, friends chipped away at my outer shell, pushing in, accepting the junk they saw, and loving me out of myself.

And I remembered – I don’t need my heart to be perfect before inviting people in.

It is so easy for us to believe we need to fix our lives and our homes before opening up to others. I cover it with the idea that I want to show people I care about them and respect them enough to clean my house when they come over.

But really, I’m just trying to manage how they view me – my reputation. It’s easy for me to talk about my struggles after I’ve passed through them, after I’ve been victorious. But in the middle, when darkness remains over my mind and heart? It’s hard to open up and say – I’m really struggling right now.

As followers of Jesus, it’s also easy for us to think we need to fix our hearts and minds before coming to him. Yet Jesus shows us what true community is when he embraces us and welcomes us at his table when we’re still a hot mess of problems and hang-ups and inconsistencies.

Jesus came for the sinners, not for the righteous (or those who think they are). He came for those who know they are a far cry from perfect, yet still desire relationship with the only one they know can make them whole.

Jesus’ relationship with us is a model of how we should build our own community. We are called into relationships with imperfect, messy people – not distancing ourselves from people with problems or “issues”, but embracing others and all the junk that comes along.

And it also means allowing people to get close enough to see our junk, too. It’s dropping the mask of “I’m fine”, and allowing the light of relationships to pierce our heart. When we realize we are accepted and loved completely in Christ, our self-worth finds its satisfaction in his acceptance. We aren’t looking to others to validate who we are or to measure our value. We are free to invite people into relationship with us and see our messiness, because our value isn’t hanging on what they think of us.

If we can let people see the messiness inside our hearts, can’t we also let them into our homes when they’re less than Pinterest-perfect? So what if you didn’t clean the bathroom this week, or sweep the floor, or put away the laundry? (Because that’s where I am this week.)

We open our homes not to impress people with our home management skills, but to deepen our friendships and show Jesus in how we love others. 

Of course, I need to put in a caveat that we should still care for our homes well and clean floors and dust a little bit. But an impossible standard of constant perfection should never keep us from inviting people into our homes – and our hearts.

The purpose of relationships isn’t about maintaining our reputation; it’s about making much of Jesus and living out community as he intended.

So the next time you panic at having someone over last minute (because your home isn’t perfect), or you hesitate to share your heart with a friend (because it’s a mess), remember who invited us into his life when we were still sinners.

Look to Jesus as your model of love and hospitality, and let that flow into how you build community with those you love.

I'd love to hear your own stories of messy vulnerability. How have you overcome the lie that your home and life need to be perfect before inviting others in?