The Disheveled Heart: When Excuses Hinder Fellowship

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“Please excuse the mess,” I quickly said, apologizing for the third time for our disheveled home. My eyes raced around the living room, stressing over the toys strewn across the floor. The table where our guests would soon be seated was piled high with our belongings and the kitchen floor highlighted the leftover particles of food our baby had dropped on it earlier that day. Being a perfectionist and a dreamer, this was the worst-case scenario for a successful dinner with friends.

I was feeling defeated before the food had even made it into the oven. To make matters worse, we were hosting a student from Europe who was witnessing my frenzy that almost led to a meltdown. My disordered home revealed my troubled heart. Hustle and hurry did their best to steal the joy of that evening.

Earlier in the year, my husband and I had decided to host a student from Europe in our home. Our empty guest room was calling for a resident, and God opened a door to fill it. In the months leading up to it, we planned and prepped the room for our student’s arrival. We cleaned our home and had everything “perfect” for her. I wanted to give her the best welcoming into the U.S. that she could have. Little did I realize, I wanted to impress her more than I wanted to allow my insufficiency as a host to highlight God’s grace. My misplaced worship was highlighted the night of our dinner party with friends and our student.

I was all out of sorts during the meal. Our one year old decided not to cooperate with dinner and only wanted to sit in my lap. I apologized yet again, making it a habit to ask for forgiveness every few minutes to cover all the bases. The couple continued to affirm me that they didn’t mind that our home wasn’t picked up and they simply were enjoying the fellowship.

Still, my heart was consumed with disappointment that this couple and our exchange student peered into our messy, imperfect world. Welcoming people into our home that evening began with good intentions, but ended in a missed opportunity to experience God’s grace and enjoy Christian fellowship over the breaking of bread.

Have you ever allowed your desire for the perfect and tidy life keep you from welcoming others into your reality? Most women miss true, Christ-centered fellowship because of the fear that others will see their untidy homes and unkempt hearts. I often wonder how many opportunities we miss because we put up a guard before allowing people in.

Could we be setting up those around us to feel as if they must be a certain way in order to be around us? Could we be missing opportunities in our Bible studies for healing over our brokenness because we are afraid to let others into the mess that is in our hearts?

For a perfectionist, it is easier to hide behind a broom than it is to sit in a disheveled home and talk about God’s grace to a friend in need. In the same way, it is easier to hide behind our Bibles and give Sunday School answers rather than to pour out our disoriented hearts before the Lord and others. But this is exactly what Jesus modeled for us in Scripture.

In Luke 10:38-42 we read the infamous story of Mary and Martha hosting Jesus. These two sisters welcomed Jesus into their home, and while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching, Martha was busy with preparations. I’ve always felt a kinship to Martha. She had good intentions by welcoming Jesus into her home, but her delight was overshadowed with duty and she was “distracted with much serving.” In other words, she was too over-occupied and busy with what needed to be done that she missed enjoying true fellowship with Jesus. Does this sound familiar?

Most of us have had our own Martha moments where we became too preoccupied with the house being clean and our lives looking tidy that we missed enjoying God’s grace in the midst of our mess. One thing that is important to note in this story is that Jesus was not disappointed with Martha’s busyness. He longed for something better for her. “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:42).

In that moment, her sister Mary had chosen “the good portion,” and Jesus wanted Martha to participate in this gift. It wasn’t Martha’s serving Jesus was addressing, it was her distracted heart and misplaced worship. She started off well by welcoming Him into her home as a beautiful act of worship and hospitality. But quickly her gaze shifted from her Guest to her to-do list. Jesus called out to her, gently rebuking her distracted heart, and calling her to do one simple, eternal, necessary thing—sit at His feet, enjoy His presence, and listen to His teaching. And He does the same for us.

If you have fallen prey to hurry and hustle and are more preoccupied with your house being clean than your heart being free, remember that Jesus is not disappointed in you. Just like He loved Martha and desired that she make the eternity-driven decisions, so does He love you and long for you to enjoy His presence, right where you are.

As women of God, we are made to serve and be hospitable, but we cannot allow preparations and a longing for “perfect” to overshadow His grace in the midst of our lives. What if we became women who had open doors to our homes and our hearts? Most likely we would break down walls and barriers that can often hinder true fellowship. Bible studies would no longer be filled with women holding a battle shield over their broken hearts. Homes would no longer be a place you have to clean up to come to, but rather a place to come just as we are and enjoy God’s goodness. In the kingdom of God, there are no apologies for a messy home or heart, there is simply grace upon grace.


embracing grace,

Gretchen