My girlfriends were coming for a quick last-minute dinner. It was hot outside, so salad was on the menu. Easy meal to put together quickly, and throw bread in the oven!

But I questioned my intentions, after I sent the text to both friends. What in the world was I thinking? I hadn’t been home all day after a full-day commitment, I knew my house was a mess, and we had agreed to meet in 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes! I threw the dishes in the dishwasher, wiped off the counter, quickly picked up the back patio where we’d be gathering, and tossed all miscellaneous items on my unmade bed. Yes, my unmade bed. My husband was out of town for 4 days and there’s something about when he’s gone–I sort of let loose on my housekeeping.

I had in my mind, I’ve got to look good. It has to look good. What will they think of me if it isn’t all good?

I shut my bedroom door as my beautiful friends pulled up. Whew! And I thought to myself, “No one will go in there! I’m safe!”

I’m safe. Safe from what? My friends seeing who I really am?

It’s easy to hide our stuff and imperfections from the world. To shut the door. To think that no one will know. But really, what are we trying to hide? That we’re real? That we have bad, disorganized days like everyone else? That our lives are hectic and we don’t always get our “to-do” list done?

We sat in the backyard–the late afternoon sun pounding the back patio–talking about life, love, teenagers, college students, work, life–all good things. It was dreadfully hot, but it was so good to be with friends.

Then it happened. My friend decided to use the bathroom in our master bedroom.

I quickly said, “Don’t go in there!”

Don’t go in there! I thought to myself about 10 times.

But it was too late.

I then covered for myself and said, “Oh, go ahead. I’m not afraid if you see my mess!”

Years ago I would have been devastated, but I’ve since learned the balance of what really matters in life. True friendships or false ones. Things of substance, like friendships and love, or ideas of image and perfection that only steal our joy. Pure love that covers a multitude of sins.

I thought about my favorite verse in the Bible, which Eugene Peterson sums up perfectly. I really love the symbolism between love and hospitality.

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it.”
I Peter4:8-10, The Message

Whew! Once again, Peter does not say that our houses or lives have to be perfect and orderly for us to be used by God.

I’m off the hook now. I can move forward even in imperfect times, and still reach out to others.

Back to questioning my intentions. I know my heart was to show true hospitality to my friends. I needed them!

I really believe that God allowed that bedroom door to be opened, to expose who I was on the outside, to teach me more about who I want to become on the inside.

Are you open to a last-minute invite, shutting the bedroom door, and focusing on your friends?

Have your friends ever seen your “mess?”

Photo credit

By Sandy Coughlin at Reluctant Entertainer

  • melinda

    Yes they have. I can now say that, although my first instinct is to keep them out of my mess, I have learned to let them see the physical and spiritual messes in my life, and then Jesus gets the glory for cleaning me up and the fact I am no better than another. There is a message in our mess if we talk about it and let them see.

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      Totally agree, Melinda! Thanks for sharing!

  • Bev Duncan@ Walking Well With God

    Yes, my friends have seen my mess and you know what?? They love me anyway. I jokingly tell people who come to my door, “Come on in. Sign your name in the dust on my coffee table and let me pour you a cup of coffee or tea.” I’ve found that most people are intimidated by a “perfect” house. It took me a long time to learn that being human and being hospitable can go hand in hand. Thanks for a great reminder!

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      Same here, Bev. My friends love me anyway. A sign of a good friend. :)

    • Bevy

      Similarly, I always say “My house may not be ready but my heart is.. Come on in!”

      And yes, I have plenty of dust for folks to sign their names – here too. (lol! that kinda cracks me up. I may use that line…)

      On the other hand…
      For me. I’ve been discovering that the mess is in me. I have great skill in avoiding “cleaning day” and that certainly is NOT what I have anticipated be in my life…

      Thank God for great friends – who inspire me to keep cleaning!! And who will want to come over to my home – whether I’ve cleaned or not. (although, that is usually when I do…) ;)

      ~ Bevy
      PS: I do have one of those rooms, too!

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  • Beth Williams

    I just love imperfection in people. It sends a message that we are all “Real”, “open” & ‘honest”! Perfectionism is just a rouse to show off, but probably not who you truly are!!

    I want to get to know you–the real you deep down in the dark, dank of life! :)

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      Agree, Beth. It’s in our realness that we really learn to relate and love others! :)

  • Lis


  • Jessica

    I am so guilty of this. Like if my house is less than immaculate, I must not care about my life, or must not be thankful for what I’ve been given, or I’m lazy or….

    So much fear.

    Jason Grey has a great song about that. “There’s no Thief like Fear.” So true. Stealing my joy and my time, and my authenticity.

    It’s authentic vulnerability that breeds authentic vulnerability. And though we all secretly crave it, it’s like we also desperately fear it. Fear the pain of rejection or disappointment or judgement. And that manifests itself in so many little ways, just like this example.

    But oh, the freedom we can have in accepting ourselves – and others – as we are, where we are. No pretense, no expectations, no judgement, just LOVE. Just grace. Just mercy.

    I’m reminded: Galatians 5:13-14 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

    Love yourself enough to let go of unrealistic expectations and pretenses – then love others the same. Or like we say on my site, Walk Agape.

    Thank you so much for this post!!

  • Sharon

    Well, it depends on the friends. :) Great post-I value authenticity in my friendships so much.

  • Angie

    Our mothers have made us crazy I think, trying to do everything, never stopping, never staying still, perfection perfection. Your point of just being yourself is great!

    • Kate

      :-) “Our mothers have made us crazy …” Love that. When I became a mom, I told myself that I wouldn’t be one of those moms who frantically throws everything into the closet or under the bed when the doorbell rings. I would have a daily ‘tidy-up time’ so the house would always be in some semblance of order. Ha. Then the kids came. It hit me when I told my kids to clean their rooms one day, and they asked, “Why? Who’s coming?” Yep. I have become one of *those* moms. :-) Great post, great reminder.

      • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

        I still think it’s okay to tidy up, Kate – I do it. But it’s not essential to hospitality. If I don’t have time, I have to let it go and just ENJOY the people! I agree, it’s a great reminder!

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      I wrote a whole chapter on this in my book, Angie. My mom, on the other hand, really taught me about hospitality and loving others. But not everyone has received that gift. It’s rare!

  • denise

    so true!

    Rev. Eugene Peterson was the founding minister of my church. Wonderful man.

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      I met him at a CBA years ago, Denise. Wonderful man, indeed!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    You are so right, Sandy. When we let go of perfection, we free others to do the same.

    Two lines from Jessica’s comment above added more truth to the matter: “Oh, the freedom we can have in accepting ourselves – and others – as we are, where we are. No pretense, no expectations, no judgment, just LOVE. Just grace. Just mercy.”

    I’m still on the learning curve of being gracious and merciful to myself when it comes to perfectionism. Thank you for your shining, less-than-perfect example!

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      Nancy, some women learn it earlier in life than others. I do think our mothers have a lot to do with how we view perfectionism. It really is about “ourselves.”

  • Diane

    I just want to “put a plug in” for those of us who don’t live in FEAR about our homes being seen messy…but who simply enjoy keeping a tidy home environment. Keeping things simple and tidy (daily) is my style — my personal preference for the way I live and enjoy my surroundings — regardless of who comes over, be it close friends or the Comcast Technician. :-) I keep my home and garage as tidy, clean, and organized as I can – not because I “fear” what someone else will think of me…but simply because I function best without chaos surrounding me. It’s OK if you are passionate about living in tidyness…we just need to have grace with others who are not so passionate about this topic of life. :-)

    • Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer

      Tidyness is what I strive for. But I’ve not always been able to achieve it, and I know there are a lot of other women out there who are in the same boat. But I do feel better in all ways when I’m organized — my schedule, house, family – life in general. Cheers to tidyness!

    • Elizabeth

      I completely agree! I commented below that during college my own room was always a mess. And yet these days, I really go nuts if things in my home aren’t tidy. Especially when I’m under stress, I do the dishes and run the vacuum cleaner obsessively. It’s not for others or what they think of me; I do it for myself, to keep my sanity. Let us never judge others when their houses are “too” messy OR “too” tidy. Let’s instead share what’s going on inside, what’s hurting our hearts or what we’re celebrating, and never mind what the environment looks like in our friends’ and neighbors’ homes. :)

  • Karen

    This just happened to me today! I invited a friend in after spending the afternoon together and forgot what my kitchen and family room looked like when I left. I said, “come on in, this is how it is, and it’s not pretty!” I may not have done it with a less close friend, but I need to learn how to do that. Another friend of mine has never hesitated to put on a pot of coffee for me no matter what her house looks like and never apologizes for the mess.

  • Kate

    Been there, done that. Thanks for your openness on something that so many of us struggle with. I often ask myself, “When will I ever learn?” :-) May your home be a warm and welcoming place filled with rich hospitality, regardless of its state of cleanliness.

  • Elizabeth

    During college, I used to baby-sit for a family who clearly had a last-minute cleanup just before I arrived each time. The living room and kitchen always looked clean and tidy, but if you opened the door to the master bedroom (which the kids always did, bless them, without realizing that the baby-sitter wasn’t supposed to see into that room!), then all bets were off. That one room would be trashed, full of all the unfolded laundry, stacks of papers, and random toys without a home, plus the clutter that just builds up in a room. But I never told the parents that the kids had opened that door and I had seen into the room, and I really didn’t care. My own room looked the same way, and I didn’t think less of them or myself for it. :)

  • Amy Fisher

    I still struggle with my house being clean and straight all the time. My mom’s house is and when she comes over I see her survey mine and I know I don’t score well for her. I’m praying every day to lay down my need for human approval and with 4 teenagers and 1 preteen I have also learned that my relationships with them are more important than how clean their rooms are. Thankful every day that God continues to heal me in this area.

  • Felecia Wong

    I used to strive for perfection and always try to hide my mess as much as I can. But I have learned to let go of the mask, embrace the imperfection and mess, and just live.
    Real life is messy yet beautiful and I am not objected when my friends and the world sees it.

    Thank you for writing this beautiful post.

  • AlwaysARedhead

    The mess of the bedroom is the last thing on my mind, and even if the rest of the house is somewhat untidy, my friends come to visit me, not my house.