I pulled up to the massive school. The outside was pristine and beautiful but I could not tell where the entrance was to the theater. As I drove around the building for the second time I noticed a maintenance man wrestling with a ladder so I rolled down my window.
“Excuse me, I’m trying to find the main entrance,” I said.
He looked confused.
“My son is performing today. Where is the theatre in this school?”
He looked at me and then glanced around the school.
“Ya know, I’ve been here ten years and I have no idea. I always work on the outside. We never go inside,” he said almost apologetically.
I drove away and around the building another time when I finally noticed the camp counselors trying to direct parents but the man’s words stayed with me.
For ten years he only worked on the outside of the building. He never went inside.
I arrived early and those who know me will attest that is not unusual. I found the restroom and was surprised to see the state of the inside of the school. The pipes were rusty and paint was peeling. It did not at all match the near perfect outside.
When the outside is glorious an expectation that the inside is equally marvelous is created. Inevitably, disappointment creeps in as you begin to see that the inside does not match the outside, not even close.
I believe there is a pervasive notion in the Christian world that our outside needs to appear perfect. For, if we love Jesus we must have it “all together.” We can spend an entire decade caring for the outside without ever stepping inside. We aren’t sure what rooms are even in our hearts. We never peer in ourselves, let alone allow others the opportunity to see the messiest of our rooms.
In a complete moment of honesty, I would say most of us have mismatched exteriors and interiors. I know I do. Like the maintenance man I met, so much attention and detail is given to what others can see and I push things under the bed and into dusty corners. Eventually, though, someone will either be invited in or, perhaps, wander.
He will ask about a room in my heart and I’ve spent so much time neglecting it, I’m not even sure where it is or how to get there. Unlike other guests, He knows exactly where the rooms are and what is in them.
“It is this way,” He says, “let’s clean it up.”
He opens the door and I can’t see anything but clutter. I see broken pieces everywhere.
“It is too messy,” I tell Him.
He picks up a piece.
“We can do this, one piece at a time,” He reassures me.
Gradually because of His patience and my perseverance, the room is livable.
He leads me to the next room and opens the door.
“I don’t want to clean this one,” I tell Him trying to shut the door. “This is where I keep my secrets.”
“We must. Do you not see how much they have grown? They only gain in power in this darkness. They will bust out the windows and the doors. They will overtake the entire house. We must make room for what I want to put here but it is a big job. You will need help for this one, someone to come along side you. Someone who will check on the progress and help keep you on task. Let’s bring in a friend who will stay with you,” He tells me lovingly as He throws open the shades.
We have been working so much on the inside that the outside is starting to look worn. I ask Him if we can work on the outside, the part people see.
“It is all right,” He tells me. “We are making them match.”
It is a long, painstaking process. Room by room He opens the doors and shows me what needs to be done. Sometimes I am obedient. Other times I fight Him. Eventually, I surrender.
Some rooms stay neat and orderly. Others require constant dusting and arranging. He shows me each time what needs to be done.
The outside becomes more worn as the inside becomes more inviting. My exterior begins to match my interior. I open the doors, unashamed of the outer appearance and the interior’s condition. It is ready for guests to enter. It is ready for others to see. I am ready to share how, by the Grace of God and love of Christ, my house is restored. I share with them what it looked like before so they can know how it came to look as it does. I tell them I might need assistance keeping the rooms tidy. I ask for help. I offer to help with theirs.
Like every house, though, constant maintenance is required. Now, however, I don’t leave the maintenance man outside. I invite Him in. Each and every day.