Sunday afternoons are messy at our house. And I like them that way.
We’ve usually let the weekend play around us with all its Legos and dolls and light sabers and blanket forts and left over pizza. We’ve let the dishes pile up and a pile of well, everything really, accumulate in the boys’ room. At least one of our children is wearing only underpants. And Pete and I will have napped and then dragged our bed heads up and back into the land of the living when Zoe wakes us and herself up and the late afternoon sun is pouring in the windows across the brown sofas, showing up every single spot or stain or trail of old milk.
It is very hard to open the door when someone knocks on afternoons like that.
When someone arrives without calling or planning, but simply comes over to say hi or to ask the boys over for a play date or to drop off hand-me down clothes for Zoe the last thing I want is for them to catch me right in the middle of my real life.
There’s panic and a profound desire to hide. Then the reflex to kick everything into the boys’ room and try to wedge the door shut. To fix my hair, rush on a layer of make up, kick off my mismatched socks.
There’s an instinct to hide who I am at my most messy behind a volley of words, excuses, explanations for why the back yard looks like the place where toys come to die. How I’d been watching Peter and Jackson sword fight there way across the dirt and in between the discarded plastic guns that were everywhere except in the gun bin. How I’d cracked open the window to yell out that guns have to be put away before new games are started and instead I just stood and watched the two of them whack and laugh there way across the sunny afternoon.
If I wait for my house or my life to be perfect before ever inviting someone into it, I just might never let anyone in.
I met up with four friends on Saturday morning and we talked about letting each other deep into the layers of our real lives, selves, fears, hopes, and desperate prayers. It seemed fitting that I was still tired from a late flight the night before, with hair thrown up on my head and no make up, no chap stick, no camouflage.
We get to choose this kind of intimacy. Or not.
“(Y)ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, you goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine.
I never feel more vulnerable than when a friend is stepping over the threshold and picking her way in between the layers of chaos that say, “We live here. And we’ve never got it perfect.”
And I still prefer the days they drop by when candles are lit and carpets vacuumed. But if I believe what I say about community, then that includes the messy days. The ones where I’ve been too tired to catch up on much of anything. It includes welcoming my people into the nooks and crannies of my ordinary and remembering not to be ashamed.
Remembering that to become real, friendship more often than not requires becoming comfortable with the snapshots of life often taken at an unflattering angle. I love how my friend Sharone put it, “I don’t care about the good pictures, really. The world can have your avatars. Give me the pictures you’d never want anyone to see. The things that are unpublishable. Let’s be just us, in the space between photos.”
So I open my front door wearing the jeans that always fall down without a belt. And my hair pulled back in a pony tail. The red shirt I’ve just discovered has a long thready pull. And no make up. My son complains about his afternoon and my daughter’s diaper looks like it’s got a full load. There’s yesterday’s dinner dishes piled up in the sink, and a load of laundry chugging around in cycles. I haven’t had time to force the boys to pick up their room yet, but you’re welcome to sit down with feet up on the ottoman cover I just washed, again, this time because of orange, drippy, ice cream stains.
Because I want you here. Whether I’m ever perfectly ready or not. I want you.
Just the way you are. Which will likely mean most days, I must open the door just the way I am.