The freedom of being Real (Part 1)
We had a home appraisal recently. It was part of a refinance for our home. When the appraisal was over, I began talking to my wife about it. The whole process got me thinking about how life can be like our appraisal.
Yes, we can live life in much the same way we lived for our appraisal. Allow me to explain what I mean.For our appraisal, we had to prepare the house. We fixed up things that needed fixing. We patched holes that needed patching. And, we deep cleaned!… I mean military cleaned. Top to bottom we cleaned the house. But, we also live in the house, so de-cluttering was hard. But we needed to make a good appearance, so we took the “paper pile” and put it away. We took the baby seats and cribs and stored them in closets. We took the laundry hamper and stored it in a less conspicuous place. We stashed everything that made our house look cluttered. Andrea warned me that I was beginning to “obsess” in my cleaning efforts. I doubled my efforts, figuring if we’re going to clean, let’s CLEAN! I have to say, the house looked amazing. With all our hard work completed, there was a tangible feeling of awe, or maybe just relief (“Aaahhhh”), as we stood there in the room. The House was clean, organized, as close to perfect as we could get it… but it wasn’t real.
As we enjoyed the “Ahhh” feeling, we were struck by the reality that this wasn’t real. It couldn’t last. It had taken days to complete the project, and, to be honest, it wasn’t fun living this way. We worried about walking on the carpet and tracking dirt around. We didn’t want to invite the grandkids over for fear they’d make a mess (which they always do, they’re kids being kids!) We enjoyed the thought of a clean house… we enjoyed what we thought it might bring… but we didn’t really enjoy living in it. It wasn’t fun. It was hard. And we weren’t as much fun. We were hard and grouchy. The focus of our life became outward…controlling… behavior-centric.
Later, as I considered all this, I sat there, alone, just me in the house. Alone, where I could sit by myself and could be very careful not to disturb my handiwork. Alone with my thoughts, and I have to admit, I enjoyed the feeling the “clean” house brought me. It was nice to feel a sense of order and control over my small slice of the world. It was comforting even. But when I introduced others into the house, I found it hard to be relational, relaxed, peaceful, joyful. And, as I thought of the future and what it would take to maintain this new “reality”, I began to feel the weight of it shifting to my shoulders. It would take a tremendous amount of energy and commitment and focus to maintain this Eden we created.
We do this with our lives.
There is a healthy aspect to all this. It is, after all, good to take time and reflect on where we are in life and what needs a little fixing up. It is freeing to seek God and ask Him to help patch a few holes and fix a few things that need fixing. And, I’m not advocating a random, cluttered, disorganized life, because having some sense of order and peace is important for our emotional and spiritual health. But, it is very easy to try to create the changes for ourselves… to create the illusion of peace and order and health… to create a snow-globe of our own making in which to live. And, for a moment it seems to bring us life.
We think that a little organization, a little order, a little control will bring us satisfaction. Or, we think that if we can make things look good on the surface then that’s the trick to being happy. So, we drive the right cars, wear the right clothes, get the right haircuts, learn the right things to say to the right people, and we get that “Aaahhhh” feeling… for a moment. Then we’re left with the reality that it is all fake, isn’t real, can’t last. Some of us just try harder to maintain our lives in “appraisal ready” condition. We double our efforts. After all, if we’re going to live right, then let’s live RIGHT! But, even with the best efforts, it can’t last. Ask even the most “successful” people and, if they are honest with you, they’ll tell you that they are afraid of being found out… afraid of people finding out that they have limits… afraid of people finding their imperfections… afraid of what others will think when they find the closets stuffed with clutter and bills and the honesty of real life.
There is freedom available.
Resist the urge to fake it, to “pose”. Begin your life of freedom by letting the guard down, dropping the “know it all” approach, begin asking questions, begin being ok with the imperfections that we ALL have (and we do ALL have them.) I admit, it won’t always feel good. There will be times it is embarrassing and maybe even painful. But, more often there will be times when the honesty opens you up to God’s healing and a freedom you’ve never known before.
How about you? Where do you see places in your life you’ve been trying to make and maintain an “appraisal ready” life? Where have you felt the pressure to fake your way through? Where in your life could you invite God in?
Learning to live more honestly,
PS. You know that “appraisal ready” house we created? It isn’t anymore. We chose a bit more balanced approach, a real and more honest level of living. (The “paper pile” is once again proudly displayed on our kitchen counter!) And with it, joy and freedom have returned to our hearts and our home. (And we’re a lot more fun to be around.) 😉