About a month ago I turned on Netflix, saw a show titled Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and wondered what it could be about. One thing led to another and now all my clothes are folded in tiny little stand-up bundles. Sue me.
If you’re not familiar with the show, the whole concept revolves around tidying expert Marie Kondo coming into a family’s home and helping them find ways to part with clutter and reorganize their house to get rid of the mess. The first chunk of the show is always dedicated to the family showing Marie around their home, pointing out the areas that are most difficult to keep clean or explaining how their house got so cluttered in the first place. Sometimes there are some tears as one family member or another feels embarrassed by the state of their home or the strain it places on their loved ones. Marie is always quick to reassure them that the mess can be handled, and they all cheerfully get to work until they have a nice, tidy little home. A happy ending for everyone!
Since watching the show, I found myself considering how that same concept applies to life with Jesus. A bit of a stretch? Bear with me here.
We have the habit of treating Jesus in a very different fashion. It’s easy to see why, really. It’s a lot easier to handle the tidying up of a messy home than it is to handle a messy life and heart. If Jesus showed up in our lives the same way Marie Kondo does on her show, the reception would be very different. We don’t exactly invite him in and show him around the place, pointing out what spots need the most help. We don’t often tearfully admit that it’s going to be hard work but we’re ready to follow his instructions for tidying up.
What do we do instead? Sometimes we let Jesus in, but only after we’ve run around the house like chickens with our heads cut off, stuffing our mess into any open cupboard we can find. We’ll let him into the house, but if he says something about the bursting cupboards, we’re quick to reassure him that we have it completely under control. “Don’t worry about it, Jesus! I’ve got this! You just enjoy yourself! I keep this house very tidy!”
Or, in more extreme instances, we hear Jesus knock on the door and we completely panic as we look around at all the mess in our lives. There’s no possible way to have this cleaned up in time. It’s too embarrassing, too shameful. If you’re going to have Jesus over you want the place to be good enough for him. “Why don’t you come back another day, Jesus? I just need a little more time to get the place in order!”
Here’s the problem though: the mess stays the same. Our hearts and lives are just far too messy, cluttered, and disastrous for us to ever clean them up on our own, and we just went and shut out the only expert qualified to help us with it.
I have fallen into this ensnaring thinking time and time again. Somewhere along the road, I tip the scales away from what Jesus was able to do for humanity on the cross and start acting like I have to be good enough for Jesus to be saved. The reality is that thinking is completely backward from the grace God is offering through his Son.
We don’t redeem ourselves for salvation, rather, salvation redeems us.
Jesus isn’t here to visit your nice, tidy house and give you a thumbs up on your work. He’s here to do the cleaning himself. If you scan the Bible for verses on salvation they all drive home that concept. Some even use the actual analogy of cleaning to make their point. Verses like 1 John 1:9, Mark 2:17, Ephesians 2:8-9 all touch on Jesus being the one to clean out our hearts and lives. (Yes, I’m Bible baiting here and making you look them up. I’m not sorry) Perhaps my favorite verse to convict me on trying to present Jesus with a self-cleaned heart and life is Romans 5:8: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
I love this verse all because of one word. Still. He didn’t send Jesus when we finally had our acts together. He didn’t send Jesus when we almost had it all figured out. He didn’t send Jesus when we were seriously thinking about cleaning our lives up. He didn’t even send Jesus when we recognized that cleaning up our lives might have been too big of a task for us to take on by ourselves.
He sent Jesus when we were still sinners.
God sent Jesus when the houses of our lives and hearts reeked with the stench of our bad choices. He sent Jesus when we saw nothing wrong with the mess. He sent Jesus when we didn’t see any reason to clean anything. He sent Jesus when didn’t see any need for him.
So this idea that you have to be some perfect, put together, worthy version of yourself to let Jesus in is nothing more than a lie designed to keep you from having his help in cleaning the mess. You don’t have to have it all together to have Him. Being the perfect or best version of yourself is not the key to having a life Jesus can comfortably enter. Why?
Because Jesus didn’t die for the best version of yourself. He loved and rescued the worst of you.
Jesus looked at you in your absolute worst, messiest, filthiest state with unfathomable love, said “You are worth it.”, and took another painful step towards the cross. He loved you then and he loves you now, no matter the size of the mess in your life.
And the cool thing about the mess? If you open the door instead of saying “Why don’t you come back another day, Jesus? I just need a little more time to get the place in order!” Jesus strolls in rolling up his sleeves. He goes on that tour with you, observing what areas need help. He listens to you and wipes the tears away when you realize how much help you need. And then ultimately, he helps you get to work. Before long, that mess-free, happy ending is on the horizon.
At the end of the day, tidying up in our lives and hearts can’t be a solo act. We need Jesus to come in, look at us with love that only he has, and say “All right. Let’s get to work.”. Then, and only then, does the real tidying start.
Let’s find some joy,