We’re all so good at cleaning up on the outside, aren’t we?
Of course, as I write that, I am reminded of yesterday morning … when my son insisted that I was driving him to school in my pajamas. For the record, I was not in my pajamas. And, I’ll have you know, I was showered. I was wearing my baggy linen drawstring pants, and an unstructured loose-fitting top, with a giant cardigan that reached my knees. I understand how this could all give the appearance of say, a pair of pajamas and a bathrobe. And if I am being honest, which good grief, I really hate to be sometimes … I have slept in those linen pants before. But only by accident. And only just once.
OK, back to the point.
Women put on a good show. And I’m not talking about Liza Minelli. I’m talking about you. Me. We clean up nice. We smile. We say “it’s all good” when what we feel on the inside is anything but good. We get to daily Mass. We minister to others. We adopt kittens (or is this just me?)
We feel tired. We feel ugly. We feel fat (and so we wear baggy clothes to hide in). We feel bored. We feel unappreciated. We feel scared. We feel alone. We feel inadequate. We feel uncertain. We feel hungry, and nothing we stuff in our mouths satisfies. Not even chips and salsa. Which is saying a lot.
The Pharisees were real good at showing off their outsides too. Following the rules, checking off their to do lists, doing everything as perfectly as they possibly can. We all know someone like that, if that someone is not ourselves. And if the Pharisees were around today, I will bet they would love waking up and reading their devotional, writing in their planners, creating spreadsheets, and volunteering for lunch duty (not that there is anything wrong with doing any of those things).
But Jesus reminds them that He is not interested in how clean they are on the outside, that what matters is how well they cleanse the inside. In other words, doing things for no other reason than saying you got it done kind of misses the mark, don’t you think? Did you read that devotional in a rush because you felt you had to, or did you allow it to soak in and breathe into your life? Do you fill up your planner to feel accomplished and purposeful, or do you use it as a tool to better balance your day, allowing margins for God? Do you create spreadsheets for everything so that life for you and your loved ones runs as smoothly as it possibly can, or is their a lack of trust you ought to be paying attention to? Do you need to feel in control of every aspect of your life? Do you volunteer out of a true calling and cry in your heart and your bones, or do you do it out of a feeling of obligation or guilt, does involvement equal love in your book? (And for the record, thank you Jesus for NOT placing this need on my heart, because we only need one room mom, right? And she clearly isn’t me!)
And it amazes me when I read Luke 11:37-41, how often my daily focus is on how well I perform, how much I get done, whom I can please, what I can accomplish … and not once, in all of the scrambling and rushing, do I stop and listen to my heart. Not once do I do an inward check, look at the building filth, hold myself accountable for unpleasing thoughts, prayers that never transformed into action, and acknowledge the fierce battle that is going on inside of me.
It is good to take action. It is good to get things done. But what matters is the motive behind it all. What matters is knowing who we are, where we come from, and that nothing we do will ever change our identity. We are beloved daughters of Jesus Christ. We are loved. And our motive should be love. Our days are not meant to be a series of tasks that if completed, we find our meaning and purpose; that if done well, Jesus will love us more. There is nothing to be earned. The price has already been paid. No amount of cleaning up the outside will change the truth.
So if today, you stay in your pajamas all day, or wear something that looks like you forgot to get dressed, or happen to still be wearing the leggings you slept in and your teenage son’s JETS jersey … that is OK. If you are staring at a long list of to-do’s, and have 56 children that need to be in 78 different places all at the same time, and your house is infested with fleas, and your kitchen a mess … do not worry.
Don’t give in to the anxiety and the lie that tells you what you do is what you are. You are God’s beloved daughter and what you are wearing, and how full your daily planner is, will never, ever change that. Remember that. Especially as we get closer and closer to Advent (trust me, it will be here before you know it).
Pay attention to what God is stirring up on the inside. Cleanse the heart, and look inward today. Ignore the mess on the outside, and look at the spaces on the inside that are in need of deep cleaning. And don’t fall asleep in this task, my friends. Because when we are not alert, the invisible battles of the heart have a frightening way of pulling us into places we do not belong. Stay awake, warrior sister … put down your planner, soak yourself in truth, and clean up where it matters.