When I see photos like this on instagram & pinterest, I imagine people fighting. I imagine oven doors getting slammed. I imagine hurt feelings and shouts filling the space. I imagine clutter and misunderstandings and vases without flowers. I imagine crying children sitting in those chairs and angry teenagers stomping out of the room. I’m not a cynic, I also imagine reconciliation. I can hear the apologies being spoken across the table, and the sweet laughter that escapes lips as tears are sheepishly wiped away. These spaces are lovely (and boy are they meticulously styled to look that way) but they will never be as lovely as the life that fills them. All the wildflowers arranged “just so” in thrift store and antique vases will never be more beautiful or more important than the intangible events happening around them. Truly, the flowers and anthropologie knick-knacks are not the most exquisite part of a home. Not by a long shot.
A few weeks ago I was with a friend who I adore for her creativity and honesty. I mentioned a woman I followed on instagram who always shared photos of her white-on-white living room and images precisely styled bookshelves and well behaving children (who I am certain are not always so well behaving) playing with vintage and folky toys. My friend crossed her legs, looked at me, and delicately remarked, “Everybody is full of crap.”
And they are. And I am. And we are.
I have found myself trading eternal things for material things. I have found my soul degraded by materialistic idolatry. I have placed Jesus and love and others on the shelf and have surrounded myself with instagram accounts and pictures on pinterest that make me dream of my “one day home”: the home that I will share with one husband and not 18 roommates. The home that I will turn into an instagram worthy gem. I think of the way our bookshelves will be styled and the tile in our bathroom and the dinner parties we will have and the garden I will grow and the Bon Iver album that will waft through the living room. I blatantly ignore things happening around me at times because they just don’t seem as important as taking photos worthy of the #livefolk hashtag. I want people to be impressed with my style. I want people to be envious of my life. I want to weep at the selfish person I have become.
My pastor always says that idolatry is taking Jesus off of the throne and putting something else on it. I have plopped materialism in His spot and am pleading with it to give me all the things that I am supposed to receive from Jesus.
I am willing to accept that not everyone who pins and posts these type of images are drowning in the sludge of materialism and the slime of conceitedness, but I am confessing that I am. My motive is never innocent. My eyes have not been focused on the things above, only on the things around me that will look trendy in a vsco filter.
I have bought into the delusion that having sleek kitchen tile matters. That having a home (or wardrobe or vacation or meals) that others are envious of is a feather in my cap. That gold silverware will contribute to my wholeness.
When the day comes that I marry that boy of mine and we have a space that is ours, we might very well have dinner parties, and we might have pretty bookshelves, but we will also most definitely have fights. Probably fights so loud Bon Iver is completely washed out. We will hurt one another’s feelings, we will cry over sickness and missing loved ones and feeling far away from God. We will laugh and love and forgive one another. We will leave dirty dishes in the sink. If we have children, they will shriek and cry and break things. They will also run and giggle and wrestle and create… and break things. Yes, our home will be filled with pretty things, but those pretty things will mean a pittance compared to the wholeness that we will experience through sadness and frustration and love and partnership.
I don’t want to ever be afraid of coming across as anything other than perfect. I don’t want to be an instagram account someone follows and remarks to her friend, “this kathryn girl looks like she has it all together”. I want to be known so intimately and so fully by the people around me that they wouldn’t think for a second that I belong inside a Kinfolk magazine because they know I am a mess and have no idea what I’m doing. They have seen my dirty home and endured my grumpy moods and tolerated my screaming children. I don’t want to stuff all those real things in the closet like clutter I am trying to hide. In fact, I want to spend so much time loving others that I simply don’t have time to worry about rearranging my living room. And I don’t want to apologize for it.
This is not how I feel right now. Right now, I still don’t want you to know how dirty my kitchen is and just how much the two hand-me-down couches in our living room do not match. But my God is a miracle worker – He turns dirty hearts into loving ones. He turns selfishness into active love. And praise Jesus, He also forgives me for every time I have made the number of ‘likes’ I receive on instagram mean more than the simple and freeing fact that I am His.
So here’s to the nights when our kitchens are filled with anger; may we celebrate the fact that part of a full life is yelling and forgiving and loving. When our home is a mess and a dear friend comes over in tears, may we be so fully aware that that moment is more precious than any pinterest inspired dinner party.
Homes hold many things. The most valuable, however, will never be able to be posted to instagram.