I have a confession.
I am a bit of a voyeur.
Not in a creepy peeping in people’s windows with binoculars kind of way, but I have to admit that I often look in the windows of cars as I walk by just to see what’s there. I don’t do it for any malicious reasons. Sometimes I look just to see what the inside of that kind of car looks like, sometimes its because it just happens to be where my eye land when I turn around, and sometimes I’m just curious to see if the inside is in the same condition as the outside
I often wonder if as I glance into these car windows if the image there is an accurate representation of the owner and how well they are dealing with the life around them. Does the mom-mobile with the juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, homework pages and car seats look like the car of an average busy but happy mom or have the juice boxes and such so overtaken the seats and floor that just by glancing, you can feel the sense of exhaustion and anxiety emanating through the windows like sweat from pores?
I certainly think this can be the case. As we individually become so overwhelmed with the pieces and parts of our lives we are no longer able to do even the smallest little things such as cleaning out that trash on the car floor. Soon we don’t even see it anymore. Piles begin to grow and soon the only space that is habitable is the driver’s seat and steering wheel.
I recently saw a car like this as I was walking into a Barnes and Noble store and I at once felt sadness and fear for this person. The exterior of the car was relatively tidy – not new by any means, but seemingly well cared for, but the inside had become a giant mountain of paper, fast food containers and clothing. I wanted to find this person and see if there was some way I could help ease the burdens in their lives.
Now I realize that I am doing exactly what I was always told not to do – judging the book by the cover – and I also realize that despite the 3 second glimpse I have of that person’s life via their car’s interior and exterior I am absolutely incapable of making a well-informed decision about that person and their life.
And yet, glancing inside this car just opened my eyes to how broken some people’s lives can be. Sure, the person could just be the Oscar Madison of Colorado, but they could also be doing their darndest to function on a daily basis but the only energy they have is to try to make the outside as attractive as possible so nobody will see the mess that resides inside.
Fortunately or unfortunately all of us are really like that car. We may work hard to keep the outside clean and well dressed, but the inside is an episode of Hoarders. Room by room, our heart and mind are filled with the clutter that is past disappointment and shame. And people of faith are no better than those who struggle to find God in their midst.
For years, I swept the corners of each “room” of my heart and mind trying to make it all look like everything was where it was supposed to be and I was strong and healthy, but the reality was that all of that garbage I carried around with me had been swept under the rugs and shoved in the closets and under the beds. I thought that if it all looked right, then God would bless me more or I would receive the accolades other were getting.
But that’s not how life works.
The hard part is I and every one of us have to do the hard work. We have to deal with all of that garbage that has taken up residence in our soul and be willing to throw it out for good rather than run after the garbage truck as it gets carried away and bring it back like a treasured toy.
A funny thing happens when we are able to do this.
We begin to see ourselves and others with the loving and gracious eyes of God.
We stop focusing on the little things that aren’t quite right and grant ourselves mercy.
We treat the people around us with kindness and acceptance.
In other words, the moment we accept that the judgement and criticism we express toward others comes from the insecurities and brokenness within ourselves that we are working so hard to keep from being exposed we are suddenly freed to just live and love and see the world the way God intends us to see it.
Now I’m not saying that by slaying the dragons of your past you will no longer have any troubles. While that would be lovely that is simply not life.
What I am saying is that once we clear out the clutter and start with a clean space it becomes so much easier to deal with the garbage that comes in. Life becomes less about living from crisis to crisis and more about just enjoying life whatever it may bring.
This isn’t an easy way of life. Being honest with ourselves is often significantly harder than being honest with others but the end result is worth every teardrop.
At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.
I have not perfected this process nor have I overcome every burden, but I’m working on it. I’m cleaning out the clutter and working to have an interior that more closely matches the exterior. That way, when people do judge my book by its cover, they will get a good representation of what actually lies in the pages beneath.