Show me someone without a junk drawer and I will show you a person not of this earth.
Homes without junk drawers are populated by aliens whose world-domination tactics include giving everyone else a complex. I am certain of this.
I’m short on drawers so I have a few junk shelves in a closet. This is how you know I am an earthling and not a pod-person. Once I took it even further and co-opted an entire room. More than just a spot to stash the odd screwdriver or tape dispenser, it’s where I would toss anything I wanted to hide when people came over — old holiday decorations, laundry, a stray ice-cream maker, Amazon boxes, dirty dishes, and so on. After the people left, selective amnesia kicked in and I’d sort of just forget about the junk in the room until the next people came and I was scrambling over new Amazon boxes and small appliances that had been allowed to wander. Should I have taken the boxes to the recycling? Yes. Should I have found an actual home for the tiny food processor and popsicle molds and cookie sheets? Yes. Did I? Nope. I tossed ‘em in the room.
You guys, I’m not saying this makes sense. I’m saying it’s what I did. Pile after pile.
The rooms for living in were comfy, bright, and inviting with long stretches of open sofa and pillows and throw blankets, expanses of counter top ready for hot tea and nibbles while friends leaned in on their elbows, sipped their sips and told their stories. All the while, lurking just steps away, was a closed door blocking off piles of chaos on top of fear on top of shame. If you want people to like you and think you’re awesome you show them your Kitchenaid stand mixer you use to make the fancy marshmallows you all just popped into your cocoa, which you also made from scratch. You do not show them the greasy cake pan and cocoa-covered Cuisinart hiding in the box that housed your toilet paper and windex as it road-tripped to your house with the friendly UPS guy. That makes you look like a recluse and a hoarder. They make reality shows about those people.
I don’t have that room anymore. The dishes have been washed and boxes recycled. I would love to say it’s because I got my act together and broke the cycle of hiding and forgetting and now it’s a beautiful guest room or office or whatever. Really, it’s that I moved. I’m not a dramatically more organized person, there just isn’t a place for things to hide. Technically a converted garage, there literally is no back room. Or any rooms, for that matter. There is a bathroom and a closet and one big, open space for everything else: kitchen, living room, bedroom, and office. Everything can be seen from everywhere.
This does a couple of things for me. For one, before I ever moved in, I tossed a ton of items I was holding onto that didn’t really have a place in my life. If something was not beautiful and useful, out it went. No partially bleached old towels. No reason to have three cheese graters and seven cookie sheets. The largest sectional sofa I have ever seen in real life went to the dump.
And second, no longer having anywhere to hide the mess means I have to just be ok with a little mess. And with people seeing a little mess. Right now, I have piles of bedding in the kitchen (because my kitchen is three feet from the foot of my bed), boxes of Christmas decorations, a bin of baby shower supplies and ephemera, and a couple cases of mason jars from Christmas presents I meant to assemble but didn’t. If you happen to stop by, that’s just what you get to see. I will wash that bedding, put the Christmas boxes in the attic, stow the shower supplies back in the dresser they came from, and maybe eventually hand those jars out with goodies inside, but not before the next someone walks through my door.
This could all be a great pitch for downsizing your life or a bid to get on one of those shows about tiny houses (which are altogether less terrifying than the ones about hoarders). Reality TV aside, living in this open space where everything is visible and it becomes impossible to hold onto unnecessary items has helped create a framework around the type of internal life I need.
Here is a thing I know about Jesus: when you make your home with Him, nowhere is off limits. He knows what’s in that back room. He watched me put it all there. And He knows better than I do what I’ve been stuffing into faraway corners of my heart. He is not content to let us polish up front rooms while we sock away every little shame and embarrassment we think no one should see. To Him we live in a home without any walls whether we see them or not.
It might be my years as a teacher, but I do well with a “not a choice” mentality. You can do A or you can do B, but C is not a choice. You can sharpen your pencil or get a new pencil, but throwing the pencil is not a choice. I can wash the bedding on my floor or toss the bedding on my floor, but balling it up and hiding it away because someone might see it is not a choice. You can banish this issue from your life or make peace with it, but you cannot stuff it. Stuffing it is not a choice.
Jesus is one thousand times willing to sit with us as we examine every item and determine whether or not it serves the life we are building together. I know I have sat with Him turning over and over something I had buried and He has said, “That is not junk to hide. That is a gift I have given you and it is meant to be seen.” However, He has also said, “That thing is a bundle of lies and straight BS and it has no place in this home.” Together we find a place for what stays and carry what does not out to the curb.
I also want to live with a healthy sense of expectancy. People are going to knock on the door. Instead of expecting to be judged and found unworthy, expect that all appointments are divine appointments and that while I may be chaotic, God is not a god of chaos. He brings all things into order and works all things together for good. Live like you know someone is stopping by, not like you are afraid someone might. That doesn’t mean I keep everything hidden away all the time. It means I have decided to be ok with you seeing my Christmas boxes out at the end of February. As Christians, we are called to live lives that invite others to Jesus. It is not possible for your mind and heart to repeat, “Don’t come in here, don’t come in here, don’t come in here,” or “don’t see me, don’t see me, don’t see me,” and not have that echo out into all your interactions. Isolation is anything but safe, not for you and not for this world that desperately needs a God of peace, a healer, a counselor, and comforter.
God wants all of you. And this place needs people who have been consumed by God. If there is a thing that you are desperately hoping nobody can see, know that He does. He does, and He still picked you. He still chose to come to messy, dirty, hurtful earth and live among us. He does not push away, He draws near. He is in the business of restoration not rejection.
So, open the door and let Him into whatever space your shame is hiding. Sit with Him in the middle of the pile and sort through piece by piece. Then stand up, walk out of that room, and board up the door. Or move out of that house altogether. There is no use for such a space when you are loved by a perfect love.