I have made numerous allusions to my basement recently. Let me see if I can more aptly paint a word picture for you, since I am too prideful to post actual pictures. Our basement is unfinished (concrete floor, concrete walls) and as large as the downstairs of our house. It will someday be, Lord willing, one awesome recreational space. But right now, it looks like a tornado ripped through. Literally. There are boxes, both empty and filled, stacked everywhere. There are things that have been pulled out of boxes during searches for lost items strewn about on the floor. Children's toys and outdoor Christmas decor (think lighted trees and reindeer) enhance the mess.
In the midst of all this chaos sit two couches. Rather, a loveseat and a couch that was once cut in half with a chainsaw by its previous owner. Said owner could not fit a full sized couch down his basement stairs, so he cut it in half, moved it downstairs, and put a nice slipcover on it. You can't really tell, unless you are unfortunate enough to sit on the divide. When that owner moved across country and justifiably did not want to move a two-piece couch, we inherited it. Since we also cannot fit a full sized couch down our basement steps, it was a logical fit. In addition to those couches, there is a TV, to which is connected our Wii and X-Box. The children play their video games down there, as well as rollerskate, dribble basketballs, and play flashlight tag when Wisconsin winter won't allow those activities outdoors.
Now let me paint another word picture for you: Company's coming. I spend the day straightening up the house, cleaning the guest bathroom, mopping, vaccuuming, and generally making the house presentable for guests. I feel the mixture of self-satisfaction that my house is looking the way it should, and guilt that it didn't look that way before. I question why I put forth so much effort for guests, but not daily for my family. I quote Proverbs 31 to myself, and feel good that I am exemplifying that woman on that particular day, and deficient for all the other days where I most certainly don't. The "hidden places" such as the basement, our cluttered closets, and the piles of papers that I hid rather than filed in my rush to get things in order nag at a corner of my mind. I sweep those thoughts away, and think "Well, no one's going to see those places. I need to focus on what will be seen."
Company arrives. We eat dinner, enjoy some fellowship, and then it inevitably happens. Mack decides that he and the husband should go downstairs and play X-Box. Or that we should all play Wii together. Or the husband just happens to be a handy type of guy, and Mack decides to get his opinion on our future basement renovation. Or the children go downstairs to play, and the wife follows cries from one of her children down into my abyss. There are no words adequate to express my shame and mortification.
After such a scenario recently, I was struck by the obvious spiritual parallel. I spend so much time "cleaning up" the areas of my life that people can see. I carefully apply my "Jesus face" to go to church, use kind speech and diligent discipline with my children in front of others, measure out the right words to those that are struggling or grieving. I speak of the necessity of submission and humility to young women, serve in the Body when I am able and it suits my purposes, and behave in good testimony when I know those that don't believe are watching. But what about the rest? What about the places that no one else sees? What about my speech and actions toward my family when we are alone? What about my attitude toward serving and giving when it isn't convenient? What about the thoughts and feelings in the deepest recesses of my soul? How much time do I spend cleaning those up? How much shame and mortification would I experience if those were laid bare? How can I possibly feel satisfied with what appears on the surface when I know that what lies beneath is a chaotic mess? Where do I start? How do I get it all cleaned up? It's even more overwhelming than the basement.
1 Samuel 16:7 "...For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."