Often the smallest choices we make and the shortest sentences we throw around reveal the deepest and darkest corners of our hearts. There have been a few times in the past couple weeks that I've been reminded of this in one particular way.
If you've ever had someone stop in for a surprise visit when some aspect of your living space wasn't as clean as you like it to be, you've probably found yourself saying something like, "Sorry for the mess…" This could simply be a sign of apologetic hospitality, an others-centered way of saying, "I'm sorry that all this stuff is in your way and that you're having to trip all over it just to get to the bathroom." Or it could expose the fact that you really want your friend to believe that normally your belongings are clean and organized, but lo and behold, he just happened to drop by on a day when they aren't.
In other words, you saying "Sorry for the mess" could be completely innocent, or it could be blatantly and frighteningly Pharisaical.
I decided a year or two ago that I was going to try not to mention to visitors the (obvious) fact that my desk wasn't clean or that the floor was cluttered or that the kitchen was dirty. They can see it, and me mentioning it is usually just an attempt to make an excuse for it. The facts are (1) we live in this house, so it's going to look used; (2) we minister in and out of this house, so the carpet's going to be stained and there are going to be crumbs in the couch covers and the trash can is going to be full all the time; (3) I don't keep my stuff as organized or as clean as I'd like to or should; and (4) if that's how I live in this house, what's wrong with you seeing it like it really is?
I wonder what parents are teaching their kids when they anxiously scramble around the house before company comes over, saying, "Hurry, kids, get this stuff off the floor — we have company coming over and we don't want them to see the house like this." I wonder if kids ever think, "But Mom, this is how it looks all the time. What's wrong with the outside world knowing that?"
I don't have anything against cleaning up the house before company comes over. I think it's a nice thing to do, actually. I also think that keeping your home and work-space reasonably clean and organized can be a sign of responsibility and will make you more efficient in life. Our apartment isn't pristine, but it's not a pit. I don't have a problem with the idea of keeping things neat and tidy. In fact, I prefer to live life that way. But I do have a problem with my deceitful heart when it tells me to act like some aspect of my life is one thing when I know full well that it's something different.
The stuff on my desk is pretty disheveled right now. In fact, there's some stuff on the floor that really doesn't belong on the floor. But if I do a brisk five-minute clean up and stack all the random papers together just so it looks nice and neat when you visit, I'm probably showing that I'm a pretty good hypocrite.
And I might just be doing the same thing on Sunday morning.