Under the Seat

Friends, I am about to tell you of a very dark place. A place so obscure and dank and vast that few ever venture into it. Only a few brave souls have ever attempted to conquer its enigmatic expanse and lived to tell the tale. A place veiled in mystery and infused with shameful secrets. What is this place, you ask? An underground WWII bunker? An Egyptian crypt? Siberia?

Close. But no. 

The vile place of which I’m speaking is the wasteland that lies beneath the car seat of a three-year-old. A place where McDonald’s toys go to die and goldfish go to live forever. A place where forgotten treasures that have crept through the car seat cracks are now embalmed in the sticky remnants of a spilt apple juice box. A place that can turn your stomach and turn someone’s opinion of your standard of cleanliness in a heartbeat. A place that is in a word...disgusting. 

I ventured into said place a few weeks ago as I moved one of the car seats from my van into the van of a friend of mine. She was keeping my boys for a few hours and needed an additional seat in her van so they could run errands. As I moved the seat out of my van, I could simply not  believe how much trash had accumulated under that seat. Now, I’d consider myself a relatively clean person (although my standard of cleanliness has lowered significantly since having children), so I’m always amazed at the filth beneath one of my kids' car seats. Between the leftover snack crumbs, pieces of paper, unrecognizable goo, rocks, sequins, and broken toy pieces, there’s a small landfill taking shape in that little dark pocket of nothingness. 

I quickly dusted some larger things into a trash bag, embarrassed by the mess and worried that my friend might see just how gross my car actually was. And as I attempted to quickly sweep the mess away in an effort to maintain some level of my own personal dignity, I realized just how often I do this exact same thing. Not cleaning out from under my car seats, of course, because obviously that doesn’t happen often - but the vain attempts at hiding the mess. Because that mess under the car seat revealed more about me than just some neglectful cleaning habits - it revealed my tendency to cover up. 

Now you know what I’m talking about - at least I hope you do and that I’m not alone in this. We’ve all got our messes. Some that we’re aware of and some that creep in through the cracks in our lives. Some messes - like those little goldfish and broken toys - are living there awhile and we’re blissfully unaware of them...until they’re exposed. Others we know are there, and we’ve just gotten used to brushing them up under the car seat. You know what I’m talking about, right? We smile and say we’re fine when someone dares to ask how we’re really doing. We make jokes or quickly change the subject when the questions get too personal. Anything to hide the mess. Anything to prevent others from seeing what’s really hiding just right beneath the surface. Anything to keep them from venturing into the less tidy places of our lives. 

But what would happen if we just...didn’t? If we didn’t keep our messes covered up? If we didn’t quickly brush away the trash as soon as it was exposed? But instead, what if we let our walls down a little? What if we were honest with each other? What if we let each other in? We might just find something incredible might happen - something...supernatural. We might just find that the area under other people’s car seats is pretty messy too. That none of us are quite as together as we might appear on the exterior. That we all have our broken pieces and yucky places. We might also realize that its okay. Hear me, friends. It’s okay. We’re all in the same boat, or should I say car seat. We’re all in need of a good cleaning - and none of us are capable of doing that on our own. We all need someone to save our messy selves and the only One able to cleanse us is Christ. We’re all in need of His saving power to even begin to tackle that under-the-carseat-wasteland. 

And sisters, we also need each other - but for some reason, we’re afraid of each other. Afraid of what she’ll think if she knew we were broken. If she knew we were messy. Afraid of what might happen if we ripped that car seat right out of the car and showed the world all of those sticky, gooped-up, half-eaten goldfish. Afraid of falling short. And we let our fear trump what we know to be true. We forget what scripture teaches us about the importance of having one another:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”   Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a

We’re all going to fall at some point. We’re all going to be shocked at the mess we discover hiding in the dark places of our lives. We’re all going to lower our head in the shame we feel at what’s lurking just beneath our perfectly constructed exteriors. That’s why we so desperately need each other. To walk alongside. To encourage. To listen. To lift up. 

I told you I was embarrassed upon the discovery of the mess festering beneath my son’s car seat. But I didn’t tell you the rest - the part where my friend very nonchalantly reached over and brushed away some of the mess from my seat. She did this without even so much as a second thought - as casually as if she was cleaning her own van. There were no gasps of horror or shocked faces. There was no judgment passed - only a knowing smile between us because the sight was a familiar one. But don’t miss the beauty of what she did here. What it demonstrates. Once my mess was exposed, she just reached over and brushed it away. She stepped in and lifted up. She smiled an “I’m walking the same road” kind of smile and helped me clean it up. She did the work of a godly friend.

Sweet friends, let’s take a lesson from the messy places and step up to calling the Lord has given us. We have a responsibility to one another. Let’s first be willing to lift up the car seat and expose the mess. Let our walls down. Throw pretenses and perfection and empty facades to the curb and let others in - like really in. Then, let’s commit to, as the scripture say, “lift up [our] fellow” sister - to point each other to Jesus, to reach over and lend a hand in the cleaning process, to reach over to take a hand and walk alongside. 

We can’t do this life alone. We need Jesus. And we need each other. 

Crumb-filled car seats and all. 

Megan Woodham