I was reminded recently of the first time I experienced a house with a formal living room. It was my friend’s home. The front door opened to a beautiful room filled with queen Anne-style furniture, delicate antiques, lace doilies, and plush carpet. Upon entering we swerved to the right and into the family room. A much more relaxed atmosphere, the furniture seemed more suited for playing or watching TV or taking a nap. There were toys and a puzzle on a card table and a dining area. At one point in our play time, I wandered into the formal living room. The coffee table seemed like the perfect place to play with the Matchbox car I had in my hand. The wheels had barely touched the table when my friend came in, looking alarmed. She said, “No! You can’t play with that in here. This room isn’t for playing. We’re not allowed to touch anything or sit on the furniture or even walk on the carpet. You need to come back into the family room.” I wondered what good was a room where you couldn’t touch anything. I asked my friend, “Why do you call it a living room if no one ever lives in it?”
Since that time, I have seen many formal living rooms and still question the point of having them. Some are there to impress visitors. Others are used for special occasions. None are open to children, pets, or the dirty, smelly things they bring with them. None are where people live. That got me thinking about my own life. Do I let people in to where I live or do I open the door just enough so they can see how pretty my life is? At my house, I do have a living room that isn’t used much, although the furniture is not special and the grandkids and dogs run through it all the time. My family room is all the way in the back of the house. You can get a glimpse of it from the front door, but you can’t see much of it. Is that what people see of me? My living room is almost always clean, with nothing out of place or dirty dishes on the sofa or marks on the walls. But my family room is strewn with dog toys, coloring books, half-empty glasses, music, TV, and the carpet is speckled with fairy-wing glitter and colorful bits of Play-Doh. It’s where real life happens. It gets messy.
I am not a great housekeeper. I hate to clean. That is not good for my house, but maybe for my life it is OK. The messiness isn’t hidden. Depending on the circumstances, when you first meet me, you may only see the spotless living room. But it won’t take long to get to the messy family room. While I may apologize for the mess, I don’t try to hide it. This is who I am. Like my well-worn family room, I am full of scratches, stains, junk, and broken pieces. But like that room, I’m also welcoming, full of laughter, comfortable–a place to be real. My family room is a much better reflection of who I am than my living room. And I want my life to be the best reflection of God that it can be. I haven’t given him much to work with. He has had to use broken pieces and some really stinky stuff. But God has fashioned me as I am and continues to mold and shape me to be more like Jesus and to reflect his image. In fact, he predestined me to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29) He is not making me into a formal living room where little of life happens. He has designed me to be a family room, where I will share in his suffering, his joy, and his love, and hopefully reflect his image to those who stop by. What a great place to be!