Our door is almost always open, and our house is almost never clean. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t like…gross…but there are toys on the floor, dishes in the sink. You know, because we live here. We actually live here.
I used to be embarrassed about my mess. I would rush home on the nights we hosted Bible study in our homes and throw everything I could not find a place for into the guest room and slam the door. My husband and I would frantically run the vacuum cleaner and wipe out the sink. We would plop down on the couch out of breath moments before the first person rang our doorbell.
When I was on maternity leave with my second baby I had to give up the facade. Two in diapers and my husband coming home from class fifteen minutes after group was supposed to start meant that the house didn’t always get cleaned. The laundry didn’t always get moved for the living room. Sometimes that laundry wasn’t even clean.
An interesting thing happened that messy semester. People opened up. They showed us their whole selves. They sat on the couch and tucked their feet up like they lived there. They exhaled and laughed and cried more easily, right there in my messy living room. We started eating together at the table that was too small for all of us and I bought bean bag chairs from Walmart that people flopped into when there wasn’t enough room on the couch.
We got real with each other. We were able to be our whole selves. People weren’t afraid of messing up my perfect life with their imperfect prayer requests or questions because I was pretty up front about mine. They knew if they spilled something, or dropped something, or cried so hard they got snot on the couch that would be okay. They knew their kids, in all their messy glory were welcome. I had tried to communicate that when I was still presenting the perfect home. But it took people really seeing my mess to feel safe enough to bring me theirs.
We don’t host that small group anymore, or go to that church. But still, no one rings the doorbell at our home. New friends, old friends, everyone just comes on in. I have heard so many times now that people feel at home in my house. They aren’t afraid of messing anything up. They feel comfortable with me.
I used to spend my time frantically cleaning up for other people, but have found they feel most welcome when I invite them into my mess.
D.L. Mayfield is releasing a new book today. She is a voice that I very much admire and I was very lucky to have already received a copy of her book. She writes honestly about the realities of a missionary life and gives us a new path to follow as we learn to serve one another. I cannot recommend Assimilate or Go Home high enough. D.L. invites us into her mess, she leaves a place for us to tuck up our feet and really be at home in the hard places with her. You can get the book here.
Since my son was born a year ago, I have felt the invitation to “scruffy hospitality “, partly because I have no choice (I simply can’t keep up), but just as much because of what you describe here, that sense of welcome in all our realness that I want to cultivate.