My boys have mastered the art of fort building. Furniture, blankets, sheets, and shelves are all carefully arranged to make an elaborate maze of hideouts and hidden passageways that make up a little boy’s dream play space. It’s not unusual for us to find a new fort in the playroom every weekend, and we encourage our boys to be creative. But as we were cleaning up their latest architectural feat, I found something new in their fort.
As I lifted the sheets and blankets off the chairs, I discovered a treasure trove of books, stuffed animals, trucks, balls, clothes, blocks, Legos…everything that once lined the neat little shelves and cubbies in our play room now laid bare on the playroom floor. Without the blanket walls and sheet roof, it looked more like the remnants of a tornado than a fort.
Tired and a bit aggravated at the huge mess that lay strewn across the floor, I asked my son, “Why are ALL of your things all over the floor?”
He didn’t hesitate as he said matter-of-factly, “I was decorating.”
There it was. I couldn’t escape it even if I tried. It stared back at me in the form of tiny folded pieces of paper cut out of magazines, dried out stamps from birthday party favor bags, miscellaneous toy parts that had fallen off long ago, and piles of too many bouncy balls, Matchbox cars, and happy meal toys. It was my reflection, and it was a mess.
My gaze softened a bit as I helped the boys clean up. Hundreds of toys were dumped back into cubbies, the books were lined up neatly on the shelves, and the blankets were refolded and placed in the closet. As we went about our daily chores, my mind kept wandering back to that mess on the playroom floor and my son’s words that followed.
I admit, I have a penchant for “decorating.” The seasonal aisles at Target and Hobby Lobby scream to me to “make holidays special” by decorating your home for every birthday, holiday, and major accomplishment in your life. I rearrange our living room shelves every time I dust, or watch Fixer Upper, trying to get them just right because WWJD (What would Jo Jo do)?
It’s habitual and apparently my sons have caught on. I love that our boys are using their imaginations, and I take pride in the home we’ve built together. I love looking at the photos on our shelves that represent our life. I love the blankets and pillows that cover our couch and invite guests to snuggle in. I even love the small dents and scratches on the top of our table where Brody plays with Legos every night. It’s our home.
And, it would still be our home if the frames didn’t match, if the blankets and pillows were multi-colored and misshapen, and if the table was not purchased at a pricey home store. It would still be the place where we gather to eat, rest, dance, and celebrate birthdays, holidays, and accomplishments. It would still be the place where we feel the most comfortable. It would still house the people we run to for solace on bad days. So I wonder, why do I keep changing it and adding new decor?
I often cover up my shortcomings by decorating. The more insecure I feel in my own skin, the more makeup, jewelry, and labels I pile on. The more unstable my relationship feels, the more elaborate dates, gifts, and selfies I add in. The more lonely I feel, the more activities, coffee dates, and bible studies I sign up for. It’s all just a bunch of decor, and when the walls are taken down and there’s nothing left to hide behind, my mess is exposed for all to see.
I’d love to end this blog with a tirade about Pinterest and social media because that’s the easy thing to do. If we eliminate the temptation, it’s not longer a struggle, right? Just ask anyone that’s on a diet and has removed all of the junk food from their house. That is wrong! “Oh hi coworker that I’ve never met before that happens to be celebrating a birthday with cake today. Can we be friends?”
The truth is that most of us blame social media because it’s much easier to say that the reason we all decorate our lives is because of the pressure we live under in today’s social-media-savvy culture than to admit that we’re just a big mess. This pressure to be perfect is not new. Throughout the gospels, the disciples mirror modern-day celebrities competing with each other to be the most famous and the greatest (Luke 9:46). Each one struggled to be the best, and there wasn’t even a “Discipleship” Pinterest board to refer to or to blame for their pride.
Christ’s message to his disciples was clear.
“You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” Luke 9:48
I love the translation of this verse in the Message. “Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” In other words, it’s ok to decorate your home, or to wear nice clothes, or to have a full social calendar as long as your aren’t doing it to make yourself look better than others.
Confession time. I sometimes do it to make myself look better than others. The ever-changing home decor. That perfect side dish. The handbag that only comes out of the box (yep, it’s so fancy it has its own box) around certain friends. It’s all to make myself look better than you! So you can understand why the monstrous mess on the playroom floor was a reflection of my heart.
I don’t always try to trump others, but the temptation is always there and sometimes it gets the best of me. It’s taken me a few butt-kicking lessons in humility and a few rounds in the ring with God to realize that I’m not the best. I’m never going to be the best. And the more I try, the more miserably I fail. I’ve come a long way in this journey. I’ve surrounded myself with friends that don’t make me feel like I need to compete, and I’ve come to accept the beauty in my shortcomings. It’s freeing to do things simply because I enjoy it, and It’s nice to know that I can choose to “lose” and still win in the process.
Last night was the Super Bowl, and our team was playing. We were joining some friends to watch the game, and I offered to bring something. After a busy weekend, I was running low on time so I decided to grab something at the grocery store. I passed the custom orange and blue cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries shaped like footballs, and I headed to the freezer section. I put aside my desire to Stepford, and I picked Sara Lee. The reflection in the freezer aisle…not so bad!