A few years ago, I was in the process of writing my dissertation. At the same time, I was working 55+ hours per week as a Director of Marketing. It was a busy season, to say the least. As a result of this hectic schedule, the cleanliness of my apartment began to suffer. One day as I was stressing over yet another week of missed chores someone suggested maybe I should hire someone to come in and clean. It was an unseemly luxury to me, as my mother had raised two kids, worked, and managed to keep her house clean, but I decided that the dust needed to be cleared. So as pretentious as it made me feel, I got a house cleaner.
I quickly learned, however, that having someone come into clean my place brought out my quirkiness. I started cleaning on the day before the housekeeper arrived. I wanted to make sure that my home looked presentable before someone came in, even though that person was coming for the sole purpose of cleaning it. It never made sense, and yet it didn’t stop me from washing dishes, picking things up, and organizing piles every night before I was expecting the housekeeper.
I think sometimes, we do the same thing when we go to church. We start washing away our warts, picking up our lives, and organizing our mess. We want to look presentable to the rest of God’s family. While it’s admirable to increasingly want our lives to look more like Christ’s, I fear that often our motives are more about what people will think of us, and not whether or not we are reflecting Him.
And I think sometimes the rest of the church promotes this.
We don’t want to see people’s warts – we want to see their illusional beauty.
We don’t want to see people’s hurts – we want to hear only about their triumphs.
We don’t want to reveal our struggles – and so we don’t want others to either.
And while there’s a danger that when we say “Come just as you are,” people could wrongly get the impression that God doesn’t want them to change (which He surely does), it doesn’t mean that we should encourage people to hide the truth of their mess. Iron can only sharpen iron if both pieces know where to strike. In the same way, we’re more effective in encouraging people in their Christian walk, when we know where our words should be directed.
Which means that sometimes, we have to be willing to let our untidyness be seen, so that others can help us clean.