Heat-herding curtains hanging in the stair-well. Electric blanket on the bed. Drawers of summer clothes half-way traded for tubs of winter ones. Outdoor play pieces and summer toys piled in the garage. It’s Fall. Suddenly. Sadly. Unusually early. The cold, rainy season is here. And amidst all these season-change-over activities, I regretfully felt inspired to clean off a bookshelf and contemplate every book we own. This resulted in piles upon piles of books waiting for new spots on our shelves. (Or a trip to Half-Price Books if I can get my heart to admit that I’ve been treating books like they are family members.)
It was a mess. An unending loop of uncompleted tasks. Daunting tasks that are great excuses for not completing other ones. Like bathroom cleaning. Bed-linen washing. Meal planning. Homework supervising. Blog writing.
I haven’t quite got the hang of having a kid in school. And our home is showing the fruit of my inadequacies. Our home looks like my heart and mind does. Disorganized. Unraveling. Cluttered. In-process.
On Wednesday night I found out our landlord was coming to do an annual property inspection on Friday. I freaked a little. Then I hatched a plan to clear the calendar and block out the whole of Thursday for one purpose: clean and organize every inch of this place. Totally doable.
“Our place is fine for the inspection. You don’t need to do anything, Babe.” My husband’s definition of what clean and tidy is, wonderfully, way more relaxed than mine. And it is good and easy live by his definition instead of mine. Selah.
But opening every room, closet, and inch of our place to our landlord pushed a button in me. I might be fine living this way… but I’m not fine letting just anyone see that we are. Sigh. I half-heartedly wish I was more disciplined in domestic duties. Oh well. Nothing a day of cleaning can’t fix! Right?! Except, on Thursday I woke with a terrible head cold. Streaming nose. Non-stop sneezes. Itchy, crying eyes. Blocked ears. Sore throat. Ugh! So much for my cleaning marathon! Instead I spent the day sipping hot lemon water and balming my raw nose with pawpaw.
As Thursday ticked by, the pressure in my heart built. The stress of the inspection was more than I could handle. I wasn’t ready to have every inch of my life inspected.
Oh. Wait. Not “my life.” Haha. I meant “every inch of our apartment.” Or did I?
So that’s the source of my freak out. Somehow I must believe that housekeeping is an indicator of the value of the rest my life. A measurement of me. Erm. Which decade am I living in? Sigh. For a race of beings that hates being judged, humans sure judge other humans a lot.
Once one of my dearest friends said to me, “I love that you don’t clean before I come over because you trust me to accept you as you are.” What she didn’t know is that I do clean before she comes over. Snort. Even my best efforts fall short. Just as well I know she loves me.
I’ve talked about this before. I have a friend who thrives in keeping a spick-and-span home. She is fulfilled and energized by deep cleaning. She loves getting it all in order and keeping it spotless. She loves it. I HATE it. Utterly. Deeply. (Want to hear something sad and funny? My first year in the US I lived with various families. In three of those homes my room and board was in exchange for housework. Can I tell you? It was the death of me. Worst thing I’ve ever agreed to. I really thought it would be no big deal. But it was. A big deal. And I deeply battled the blues that year.)
Maybe you’re thinking one of these things:
1. You should follow Flylady.
2. Housework depression? Me toooooo.
(Bee tee dubs: Flylady is awesome. She absolutely rocks. I’m a huge fan. The thing is: When I tried it, I got overwhelmed and sad. After a few weeks I became so sad that my husband asked me to stop doing whatever was making me sad. I may try it again in the future. But… not because I “should,” right?)
Here’s the thing. This is bigger than “housekeeping.” It’s about standards. And not the good kind. Standards of judgment of worth. It’s about identity and the things that are robbing our lives of joy.
Ever felt… not good enough? Ashamed and vulnerable? Bracing for judgment? Expecting rejection? That no matter how hard you work or how hard you try, you are not up to standard? That you (… your home, your work, your family, your marriage, your singlehood, your efforts…) are not healthy enough or lovely enough or successful enough?
Oh the god of housekeeping. Oh the god of great hair. Oh the god of perfectly mothered children. Oh the god of cutting-edge-nutrition meal planning. Oh the god of … anything by which we judge and value each other by. They are false gods. And bad judgment criteria. And I have to ask, ladies of the oh-so-modern year of 2013, why are we still doing this to each other?
BUT here’s the bigger question: Why are we still doing this to OURSELVES?
Oh for sure, there are people who have judged me. And for sure, I have an enemy who tricks and schemes. But, hear me, I am the one who has allowed judgment to seep into my heart. And affect my identity. And subject me to expectations I can’t meet. And keep me dissatisfied with the life I have. It’s me. I have done it to myself. So on Thursday, as I sat surrounded by tea cups and tissue wads, I did a little reorg of my heart and mind.
1. Perception of what people think. I’m been praying about my sensitivity to feeling judged. About my insecurity and low self-esteem. I know that in my weakest state, I am a walking wound. An offence waiting to happen. So I’ve been talking with the Holy Spirit about how to have confidence in His work in me. To walk in the confidence that I am His masterpiece. Even today. Even in this very moment with my many failings. No other voice but His matters. And I’m working hard to choose to hear the words people say as not judgment. To stop perceiving critique and criticism.
2. Good voices. I’m tuning my ears to the right words. Somehow, along the way, I began to listen to criticism more than to vision. Silly me. I have beautiful friends and mentors who speak correction into my life with voices of vision. Of hope and courage and growth. And I have the Holy Spirit and the Bible speaking sanctification into my days. I have accountability and support for my growth. I’m not avoiding correction. I’m just avoiding unloving condemnation.
3. Loving my life and accepting help. There is a beautiful balance to be found here. A recipe: a cup of enjoying life plus a cup of accepting help. I need both. To care, to not care, to give care and to be cared for. In everything. God’s plan is to use community (aka the Body of Christ) to refine and heal us. Beautiful. Last summer a gorgeous woman offered to clean my home. Because she wanted to gift me her service and investment. Not because I am a desperate wreck. Or maybe because I am? Doesn’t matter. Well, I can’t let my heart allow it to matter.
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Well, our landlord came and “inspected.” She thanked us for how clean the carpets looked and how good the walls looked. We gave her our list of requests. And with that, the inspection was done.
So stupid that I pushed myself into an emotional state over housekeeping… and the fear of inspection judgment. Here’s the simple truth: Our apartment is in a state of growth and transition. Ditto for me and every part of my life. There’s no point trying to cover it up. There’s no point trying to have it all together. Instead, I need to put my energies into loving exactly who I am today. Praying for my heart to stay reminded of this feeling of freedom.
Reminder to self: Don’t buy in to the fear of being inspected. It will be a horrible prison. You have the authority and power and strength to be free from the weight of criticism and judgment. Really.
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