I wonder if it has ever happened to you. Someone is unexpectedly coming over to your house and it is not as clean as you’d like. It is time to rush-clean. Just pick up the stuff, take it to another room, and shut the door. And just like that, the guest walks into a clean space and is none the wiser. Why is it so important to have them come into an uncluttered space? Perhaps it is our sense of offering hospitality. Perhaps it is our need to present well. It is part of the image we want to project: we have it together.
We tend to do this with ourselves as well. In a society that values individuality and individual success as signs of making it, we feel pressure to present well. We have it together. The problem is, I never remember reading any place in the scriptures where Jesus calls us to have it all together. I have never read a passage in which he chastised someone for not being perfect. Instead, he chastises the presentation of perfection when it is not the truth.
In Matthew 23, Jesus says to the religious people with the reputation of having it all together: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” Remember that room hiding all our stuff?
Jesus never shames anyone for lack of perfection. He does not need us to be perfect but he does call us to be real, whatever that looks like. Be real before God with all the junk and all that is pretty. Be real before God with all the clutter and all the clarity. Be real with all the doubt and all the faith. For these are all within us. Opening the door to the things we’ve been told are shameful or falling short – opening the door to the clutter – is the beginning of our healing.