Third Place

“Reject radical individualism.”

Is that not the most countercultural statement? My space, my time, my body, my choice, my rights, my success. We live in a world where the individual is supreme. And yet, this is the challenge our pastor threw at us a few weeks ago.

A little over a year ago, my then family of 3, set off on yet, another big adventure. We packed up all of our belongings, and with a 2 year old in tow and an unfortunately disproportionate, chubby little dog, we moved. Our home sold in 6 days, full-price, cash offer! (Can you say woah, God!?). We were elated…until we realized… we are now homeless…with a 2 year old…and a fat dog.

So we began the search… house after house after house. My husband was living with a friend in our new city, while my child and I (and pudge dog) were living 3 hours away with family. And then, it happened… our realtor sent us a walkthrough video of my dream home. I watched it and my heart soared. My husband wasn’t quite as convinced, however. But, after several more houses (and a lot of nagging…er, I mean encouragement), he finally saw things my way. We sent the offer and received the news. They were signing a contract…with someone else…submitted only three hours earlier. I broke. I mean ugly cry, pajamas, under the covers, Oreo binging, broke.

Instability and chaos is not something I handle well, and not having a place or space of my own was too far out of my comfort zone with a 2 year-old who was all the beautiful things 2 year-olds are known to be.

I wept and begged and sighed and grumped at God for the next week. (I didn’t say I was mature about this.) And he, as he always does, brought (read: dragged) me to a place of open-handedness. I let it go. (Sorry, mamas, I know that phrase is a new curse word after the latest Disney phenom.)

I gave up my need for THIS home, and began to let him give me a vision for what he wanted for OUR home. I began to pray for a “Third Place” home. A place where people could escape from their normal routine, a place of sanctuary. After weeks of being uprooted and being graciously welcomed into the homes of others (remember, with raving 2-year-old and rotund pet) I had developed a sensitivity to the need for sanctuary from chaos. Just as I had been blessed to partake in, I wanted to have a home that was a place for people to rest during unstable, insecure, and hectic times. A safe place where they could feel refreshed and loved. I wanted a home with an open door, open fridge policy.

The realtor called 10 days later. The buyers had backed out! The house would be ours! I have danced wildly a lot in my life, but this dance party was especially exuberant!

Skip ahead 6 months. My prayers for a home of rest seemed to be coming true, my new friends joked that we ran “Hotel Ferreira” because of the constant flow of visitors we seemed to have. Many people commented on how peaceful and refreshed they felt spending time there, and I marveled at what God was doing.

And then two lines showed up on that little plastic stick… and exhaustion sat on my chest like an elephant. My stomach churned for months and the orderliness of my house along with it. My gift of sanctuary resembled the aftermath of an F5 and all I could do was look at it.

For some study-able reason my husband and I love to make poor choices when we are going through difficult times. So about this time we adopted a dog … who greatly resembles a polar bear in both size and quantity of fur. Chummy- the most loving, snuggly, gentle, smelly, and fur-shedding dog you’ll ever meet. So now to the destruction that was my home, we added fur… mounds and mounds of fur.

I went from reveling in the gifts of God’s dream for my home to wallowing in the shame of the chaos around me. I stopped letting people in. My open door policy came with an asterisk. *I will open my door to you enough for you to see my face but not my floors. If I do happen to invite you in, it will only be after I have ignored my children for a minimum of 36 hours in fruitless attempts to make my life look “put together.”

My obsession with my chaos became crippling to the dream God had given me. My ministry during this season as a stay-at-home-mom was directly tethered to my home, and I had cut the rope. My radical individualism was a kind of pride, but in a different way. It told me, your chaos is worse than anyone else’s and it buried me in shame.

And then Jesus happened, as he always does. He began to remind me that he is in the business of bringing chaos to order. From beginning to end His purpose for us has been to bring what is out-of-sorts back to right. We see it in creation, when he calls the chaos of nothingness into the perfection of the universe. We see it on the cross when he took the brokenness of that creation and provided a way for us to be made whole again. We see it from the failings of Adam to the Triumph of Jesus, he is bringing what is chaos back to order. And you know how we get there? Through confession. We bring our crazy, sin-splattered, wrecked lives freely before a spotless Jesus and he makes us whole, he puts us back to right.

In church when our pastor told us to open our homes and drop our individualism, my husband leaned over and said, “We’re going to have to die to Chummy hair.” My chaos cannot hinder my ministry, it must be handed to Jesus so he can do what he does best. But let me be clear, the order he brought was not to the cleanliness of my home (seriously, come by, roll in the fur and count some diapers.) No, the order he brought was to my willingness to let him rearrange my priorities and where I placed my confidence. I desired for my home to be a “Third Place,” but in order for that to happen I had to die to my prideful humiliation and share the gift God had given me to share, in all of it’s real-life glory.

He also gave me new perspective. When God reorders our brokenness, he doesn’t sweep the memory of it under the rug, rather, he upcycles it into something beautiful with purpose. And while my shame over a messy house might seem small in comparison, there is NOTHING too broken for God. I look forward to embracing my “chaos”  and watching the lives and ministry God orders around it.

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