We are having company for dinner tonight, which means I am in a mad scramble to make it look like no one lives here. I have almost finished the lasagna but the floor still needs to be mopped and the kitchen is a wreck and there’s an entire corner of the living room where random Christmas trimmings have been collecting since the morning of December 25.
I look up at the clock where the minutes keep on ticking by and I realize that I never fixed that tear in the couch. I notice that I don’t have enough matching dishes and I’m completely out of napkins. I have forgotten all about making the brownies for dessert but I have become acutely aware of the fact that my children still have not learned to flush the toilet in the hall.
Anxious thoughts flood my mind. I don’t know what to do next. I can’t think. Then the children stomp through and demand my time with comments and questions that seem so menial in the light of my greater responsibility. “I had it first!” “He hit me!” “Can we have a snack?”
I feel anger welling up. Why are they bothering me now? Can’t they see I’m busy? “I don’t have time for this!” I snap. “Go find something to do!”
But what I really mean is, you are too much of a bother. You are getting in the way of the little show I’m trying to pull off. You are messing up the mirage that we have it all together.
Why do I do this to myself? I think as I mop the floor. Every time we have company over, it’s the same way. I fall into a trap of trying to be perfect. I suddenly become dissatisfied with my home and my children and my husband and especially myself. My husband can never be helpful enough and the children can never play quietly enough and I can never do enough to make myself look much better than I really am.
It’s the old hypocrite in me coming out to play. I talk a big talk about grace, but on Friday nights when company is coming over, I don’t want it. I want a clean house. I want to keep up appearances. I will worry about all that sin that is death after the company goes home and no one cares if I have dirty dishes in my sink.
After every one goes home, I will apologize to my husband and the kids and say things like, “I’m sorry I was a little cranky,” because saying “I’m sorry I was a little cranky” is easier than saying, “I’m sorry I yelled at you” or “I’m sorry I didn’t have time for you” or “I’m sorry I loved a clean kitchen sink more than you.”
I will say it sincerely enough, though, as if I learned something. But really, all I want is to justify the tyrannical behavior that got me what I wanted. I acted unlovingly toward my husband and children but I got a clean house. It seems like a fair enough trade.
But of course, it isn’t. Trading grace for works is the ransom of a birthright for a pot of stew. It is a cheap exchange that leaves everything around me tainted no matter how hard I clean.
Today, getting the house clean in time seemed to be more important than love or grace or any of those things that tend to leave dirty footprints on my floor. Today, checking off the to-do list was more important than being honest and real and kind.
But on this beautiful day, God did not leave me in my sin. He reminded me of grace. Deep down, I know that a friend will not care if my house is clean or not. I certainly don’t care if hers is. In fact, I don’t mind if there are a few crumbs on the floor or dust on the windowsills because I can understand that. That makes me feel right at home and I love her all the more because she trusts me enough to know that it is okay for me to see her smudges.
And I am nothing if not a little smudgy. I fall short just like everyone else. I understand that, I think, until it’s time for me to be on the receiving end of grace. Then I don’t like it. Then, I want to work it out so I can give grace without having to swallow any of it myself.
But it’s not enough to give grace. I must receive it. I must let people in to the mess and the brokenness and trust that they will love me all the more for my weakness. I must hold on to the promise that Christ will indeed be more glorified through the broken pot than the whitewashed vessel.
On this beautiful day, I got to be a broken pot, an open door, a woman acquainted with grace.