“Friends are the people you let in to see the mess of your life.. and love you anyway.”
That statement (or one similar) has been rolling around in my head a lot, lately. I’m not sure if I heard it somewhere, or if I made it up, but either way it’s been a somewhat recurring theme for me, over the last few months.
Letting people in is hard for me. I think that surprises some people, because I’m pretty open about a lot of things on my blog and I’m (usually) not afraid to look at myself honestly and admit my flaws. But generally, I like to admit my flaws on MY terms. And I’d MUCH rather tell someone I’m lazy and that my house is a mess, letting them imagine their own picture of “mess” (I figure they’re probably thinking of stray dust bunnies and fingerprints on the windows) than invite someone over and let them take a look inside my closets, or make a trip down into the basement, or open up my refrigerator (or, or, or.) It’s one thing to SAY I’m disorganized, and quite another to invite someone over to witness the disorganization first-hand for themselves.
But I’m really learning (and learning to accept) that I have friends who love me “no matter what.” This week, two of my very best friends took the time to come over and help me clean my house. When you think “clean the house,” you may be picturing a good dusting here and there, maybe getting the windows wiped down or the bathtub scrubbed. Please allow me to explain what I mean when I say “clean the house.” I’ll start by saying that in two days worth of cleaning, we never even touched the windows or the bathtub. We didn’t have time.
When Michelle and Manuela got here, almost every room in the house had been turned completely upside down. As I said before, Organization Management is not high on my list of skill sets. (I can, however, run a half-marathon. But I digress.) Very few things in my house actually have a “place.” With six children under the age of 10, you can imagine the chaos that creates in a small home (actually, you probably can’t. Whatever your imagining, the reality is probably much, much worse.) Shoes are usually kept behind the front door or in the toy box or under the couches. Bedsheets might be in the girls’ bottom drawer, or the boy’s top drawer, or on the shelves of two different cabinets in the bathroom. Jackets are usually in the hall closet (on the floor, more often than not), or on top of the couch, or in the car. Toys belong everywhere. (I really mean everywhere.) So, with Michelle and Manuela’s help, I was determined that everything in my house would be assigned a SPOT. With this in mind, I started from scratch.
In the girl’s room, I emptied out every drawer, stripped the closet bare, upended the toybox, and had the kids get everything (toys, papers, clothes, markers, dishes, old banana peels… you know… things that should be located under the beds of 7, 8 and 9 year old girls everywhere) out from under the bed. All these things were conveniently located in a gigantic pile in the middle of the floor when Michelle arrived at 9:30am. While I took a client’s order over the phone, Michelle and the girls got to work and by the time I was done, the pile was completely gone.
THOSE are the kinds of friends I have.
At one point, I went into the kitchen to grab something (probably a trash bag. I think we went through at least 47 of them) and found Manuela with the upper half of her body inside my kitchen cabinet, scrubbing everything down and throwing out shriveled up potatoes and suggesting new places for the garlic to go (apparently, it will keep better in the refrigerator. But that’s going to be a project for another day, because in two day’s worth of cleaning we never even got to the refrigerator.)
I took a moment to watch her, with a big grin on my face because I was thinking: “we’ve reached a whole different level of friendship, here.” And we have! I don’t need to hide things from these friends… they’ve seen the “mess of my life” and they love me anyway. They haven’t just SEEN it, they’ve helped me do something about it. And it’s not the first time. They helped us clean out our entire basement several months ago. My friend Tiffany has helped me scrub fingerprints off all the walls and mildew from the bathtub. And I know that any number of my friends, who as of yet have not been given the opportunity, would help me with any number of projects in an instant without blinking an eye or saying a word (in front of me, anyway.) ;) In any case, I know they’d love me just as much after seeing my mess as they did before.
Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? I’ve written about this before, and it really seems to me that if we’re a “body in Christ,” then we need each other. If we can’t admit our flaws, if we can’t let people in to see the “good, bad and ugly,” how can we really rely on each other? How can we really love each other? How can we be for each other all that God wants us to be – all that He has empowered us to be? I have come to believe that there is a quality of relationship with God that can only be reached through having loving, open relationships with those He has put into our lives. There is a type of friendship that is so deep, so personal, that God will use it to change our lives, if we’ll let him. I believe that kind of friendship starts with being honest with each other in ways that most of us have never even imagined. Letting people in to see the things we hate about ourselves and have struggled, unsuccessfully, to change. In my experience, sometimes just letting someone else in to our struggle is what it takes to win the fight. Will it hurt? Sure. Will we be betrayed? Possibly. But as Bill Johnson once said: if we never produce a Judas, we’ll never produce a Peter.*
Thank you, Michelle and Manuela, for being those friends in my life. Thank you for being friends I can count on to love me anyway, no matter what. Thank you for not judging me for my messes, but helping me to clean them up – both literally and figuratively, physically and spiritually. Your friendship means more to me than I can ever, ever say.
*That’s not to say that we’re supposed to have this level of friendship with everyone… maybe I’m wrong, but I think that God puts different people in our lives for different purposes and different seasons. Even Jesus had 12 who were closest to Him, and from those 12 it seems that 3 were especially close. I’m not advocating exposing the deepest parts of ourselves to everyone. But if we can’t expose them to anyone, are we really loving each other, and experiencing love from others, the way God empowered us to, when He gave us the Holy Spirit and prayed that we would be “one” with each other?