“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (Proverbs 14:4)
Years ago when my husband and I were just newlyweds, a family we had recently met invited us over for dinner. I walk into the kitchen to see pumpkin soup simmering on the stove – the shell scooped empty on the countertop. A mom of 3 and she has time to make pumpkin soup, from scratch?! Bruschetta is warming in the toaster oven. A bowl of nacho chips sits on the centre of their long wooden table. The kids run in and out of rooms, stopping just long enough to say hello and remind us of their names before they rush back to their loud game of chase.
We stand in the kitchen munching on our appetizer – it’s delicious – as our hosts ask us about ourselves, our hobbies, our jobs.
I follow the wife downstairs for a tour, or she’s asked to show me something, I can’t quite remember. But for one reason or another we end up in her laundry room, and I can’t believe my eyes. The entire floor of the room – and for a laundry room it’s rather spacious – is covered with clothes. Clothes in baskets, clothes in large mounds, clothes folded in piles. We can barely step foot through the door because of the mess. “Laundry isn’t my strength,” she laughs, and we make our way back upstairs for dinner.
When our bowls are scraped clean we clear the table and sit around playing cards. We stay long after the kids have fallen asleep in their room down the hall.
I remember this night, I remember it so well. And not just because it started my obsession with bruschetta.
This woman didn’t wait until her kids were older, quieter, to open her home to us. She didn’t wait until she had time to cook us an elaborate dinner. She didn’t wait until her house was tidy and the laundry was done and the floors were washed and her make-up was perfect and her hair was curled. If she had, she would never have found the time to invite us in. She knew what mattered, and she shrugged off what didn’t.
She welcomed us into her life, just the way it was. I was so thirsty for this, and on that night she filled my cup. Because deep down, just the way we are is what this world is desperate for. We need real. We crave honest. We’re hungry for truth.
How many times have I frantically rushed around my house before company comes, trying to wipe walls and layer on make-up and hide clutter, all of a sudden furious that my thighs aren’t thinner and my family isn’t neater and my couches aren’t nicer. I do all of this in the name of hospitality, when really I am afraid. I’m tied up in knots worrying what people will think of me. What if, God forbid, someone discover what I’m really like?
I don’t want others to give me their pretend selves so why in the world do I feed this lie in my own life?
It’s got to end.
I don’t want you to show me you’re perfect, just show me you’re real. Show me your messy hair that you haven’t had time to wash. Show me your food-splattered fridge and your dusty baseboards and your overflowing hampers. Show me the cookies that flopped and the fight you had with your husband last night.
Show me your insecurities and your worries and your disappointments. And I will love you anyway because when you show me you, I see myself. And I thank God I’m not alone.
The second we include people in our lives, life becomes shoes and schedules and dirt and dishes. It’s busy, messy, complicated. But it also becomes full.
A clean life is an empty life.
I want a life that is full. Full of joy, full of love, full of goodness. You and I have the power to give each other the beautiful gift of acceptance and belonging. I’m starving for that – aren’t you? When we remove the veil and show each other our imperfect reality, and then invite one another in, we are saying “Here I am, and I see you, and I think you matter.”
That’s the kind of love that moves the mountains in our hearts, and fills the holes in our souls. That’s the kind of love that shakes this sleeping world out of her slumber.
And it can all be done with a bowl of soup and an open door.