My husband and I looked for houses to buy for three years. As our friends moved into larger homes and better neighborhoods, we stayed in our little 60-year-old rented triplex and waited. We went to open houses and we sighed over our credit score; we longed to move but wondered where we should go. Hospitality has always been an important value to us, so we hosted parties and made dinner for friends even though our home was pint-sized.
We felt called by God to be hospitable, trying to remember that the trappings of the home didn’t matter nearly as much as the love inside it.
Finally, when the opportunity presented itself, we moved to another state. Once here, we looked and hoped again for a home. After three failed escrows, countless rejected offers and another full year of house-hunting, we bought a house. Our new home is a gift from God.
With the exuberance of newly minted home-ownership, I love picking out paint colors and buying tile, drooling over new appliances and making wish-lists at department stores. Owning my own home makes me want to be a perfect homemaker in a way that I never was as an apartment-dweller. I find that I’m much pickier about dirt, dust and clutter than I ever was before.
Also in our new home, I find that my old habits of hospitality are hard to resurrect, because I want our house to be perfect. I remember our old rental’s cracked floors and trick windows, and of the many late-night conversations, delicious meals and moments of true friendship we had there in spite of its appearance. God honored our old home and gave us great relationships there, because we chose to open our door and welcome others.
Despite my self-talk, I have yearned for a place of my own for so long that my selfishness is showing. I find myself protecting our new house like a jealous lover, not sharing freely like the warm hostess I used to be. Inviting people and being real, honest and generous with what I have to share is still important. In fact, perhaps it’s even more important now to be generous and welcoming, because God has blessed us so greatly!
I’m reminded of Jesus’words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25-28 as I fuss with my home and strive for outward perfection:
“…For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”(Matthew 23:25-28)
I must admit, I am so concerned with the appearance of my new home that recently I’ve neglected going to church, telling myself that working on the house is worth missing a few Sundays of worship. I have become focused on what I want – the paint, the linens, the countertops that I choose – so I snap at my husband or ignore his concerns. I am so worried about what others may think of my style, my half-remodeled home, that I do not invite and welcome people into our space as I used to. I lie to myself that my tight-fisted perfectionism will go away in time, because we all know that indulged selfishness gets better on its own, right?
As I look at my list of desires and failures, I think, what would Christ have for me in this season? Perhaps I should let him clean the inside of the cup and let the outside come along behind. Perhaps I should be more concerned with my hospitality than my paint colors, my kindness instead of my Pottery Barn duvet. I am saved by the grace of God, not because of the work I strive to do or the appearances I long to keep.
God is showing me that this home is a gift from him, so I should serve him with it, not in spite of it.
Indeed, I can use this home for his glory, even as I replace the dishwasher and rip up old linoleum. God doesn’t care so much about my taste for design, but instead wants me to taste and know him. Opening my home to others reminds me to note God’s goodness and share him with the world in whatever way I can.
Today I’m going to rejoice in my new home, and thank God for it. Today I am going to clean and renovate and invite others into my messy, beautiful life. Today, I am going to let Jesus clean the inside, and let the outside take care of itself.
Check out an earlier post by Dani here.