Last year, on one of my speaking trips, I stayed in a hotel room that gave me the impression I had stepped back in time. I don’t mean this in a good way, like when you stay at a bed and breakfast in a lovely old house from the Victorian era, with lace curtains and antique furniture and a grandfather clock that chimes on the quarter hour. This was not a nicely, quaintly nostalgic experience; it was the real thing–a room that had been furnished sometime in my childhood, and to which time had not been kind.
The furnishings were all at least 30 years old, and every year showed. They had not been quality items to begin with, and now each piece was scuffed and scraped and hopelessly, irredeemably out of style. The top of the TV stand was worn all the way through the varnish and veneer, in a patch the shape and size of a large boxy television from decades past. Unfortunately, the thin TV that now graced the stand was much more compact and left the worn spot exposed without shame. The sofa was sagging, the drapes were falling off rusted metal hooks (notice: actual drapes on hooks), and they weren’t large enough to cover the entire window. The desk chair was crooked and permanently reclined at a 45-degree angle. The closet was covered with a heavy, stained velveteen curtain. Even the coffee and tea packets next to the coffee maker looked as if they had been pulled from long-kept reserves.
With gratitude, I tell you the room was clean. And it had not been left to simply age untouched. It was obvious someone had attempted to give the room an update within the last few years. They had hung a couple of new pictures on the walls, put a fresh cover on the bed, and changed the carpet (thank goodness). Maybe they were convinced these updates were enough, or they believed these minor alterations masked the ways the room was completely worn out. But the wear and neglect were impossible to overlook. The decorator had been hampered by furnishings that had exhausted their appeal years before. A few cosmetic changes simply would never be enough.
Similarly, many of us are living in emotional and intellectual rooms with the same problem. The emotional furniture is old and worn, we are relying on broken beliefs or coping mechanisms that can no longer support our weight. We may try to adapt and to bring in new, healthier ways of thinking. But we keep overlooking the old ones, thinking they are more serviceable and more comfortable than they really are. We have all memorized the scripts we learned as children, and for some of us these messages always have been structurally unsound, convincing us we’re unloved, we don’t need anyone else, God can’t be trusted, our value is in what we do or how we look or who we know, or failure is not an option.
Is this true of you? Are you walking around with old furniture in your inner life, trying to make do with what served you in the past and doesn’t work for you anymore? Are you trying to hide what actually might be obvious to everyone else? Maybe it’s time to not only redecorate, but redesign! Get rid of the old stuff and bring in the new. Paint the walls with your values. Cover the windows with a committed sense of purpose. Learn some new design techniques that will help you live a healthier, more effective life. Invest in some sturdy, attractive emotional furnishings that express the person God made you to be and will hold up under the weight of life’s brutal realities.
Regardless of your circumstances, your age, or the size of the draperies hanging in your window, you have the opportunity to make decisions that will help determine the quality and the impact of the life you have been given. Why not design something around what matters most to you? Why not challenge yourself to go deeper, get healthier, learn more? The healthier, more mature, and more values-driven your “inner room” grows, the more you will provide a welcoming and inspiring space for others.
© 2018 Amy Simpson.