What a Mess!
By Deborah Schoenfelder
“I trust in your unfailing love; My heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5
“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; Even at night my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
There’s no way around it: Life is messy. We spill, we stain, we track mud into the house, and when the light is just right, we see windows and other glass surfaces covered with finger and nose prints (where did those come from?). I freely admit I am a “neatnik”, but the advent of having children and then a couple of feline companions helped me to ease up on my supposed need for neatness. I quickly figured out a little peanut butter on the sofa was not a problem. And a kitten swinging from the drapes? Oh well, she gave us all a good laugh and a warm memory that has lasted beyond her lifetime.
At times I feel like I am a mess. I’m anxious about having to confront someone about a sensitive situation, or I wish I could undo something I said or did, or I wonder why someone felt it necessary to say something that was hurtful to me. The list of times that I feel like a mess are endless! These can often be times that I want to retreat from others and spend time in the safety of my home. There’s no doubt life is “cleaner” if we don’t get too close to people. Indeed, relationships are complicated and can be messy. But I try not to remain in my safe shell for too long and venture back out to be among others.
On one of my recent visits to the memory care facility where my dear mother resides, a woman at the next table was concerned that she had spilled something onto her clothing (I’ll call her Joyce, not her real name). A staff person eating with her said without hesitation “The spill is hardly noticeable, and I think life is too short to worry about spills.” Immediately Joyce started laughing and replied “You know, you’re right.” Lunch continued with no further worried remarks about the spill that might turn into a stain. My thought was how profound to say that life is too short to worry about spills. They happen, and they happen a lot: The spills that come about because of errant food or drinks ending up where they shouldn’t; and the spills that happen in our mental, emotional, social, and spiritual lives.
So when spills happen and my life feels messy, I think the real question for me is what am I going to do about the spills, especially the messy ones. Am I going to worry about them, am I going blame someone, and maybe even get angry? I may go as far as question God’s presence as I struggle with my mess, much like these Bible verses lament:
“Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
“Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13:1-2
Rather than worry, blame, get angry, or question God’s presence, maybe I can work at cleaning up the mess as best I can and move on. I don’t find it easy to fix messes I’ve made, or to move on when I have felt slighted by someone. But God did not promise me an easy life. What he does promise is to take my hand along this life journey, and if necessary carry me at times when I feel particularly downtrodden and weak.
In addition to God’s promises that are there if I open my heart, I can find strength and solace in folks I have come to trust. And worshipping with others, as well as turning to scripture and Christian music is empowering and soothing for me. For example, Francesca Battistelli sings the song “This Is The Stuff” (2011), proclaiming “In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed.” The refrain of another song “Beautiful Mess” (2015) performed by Meredith Kinleigh, goes like this:
Once again I’m reminded, I’m not perfect-I’m a beautiful mess that’s at my best-I am broken just like the rest-I’m a beautiful mess-Yes I confess I’ve done things that make no sense-But if I failed to see the imperfection in me I wouldn’t get to know the Savior who sets me free-So I accept that I’m a beautiful mess.”
Life is messy, I am messy, but I’m a work in progress guided by His unconditional and all-encompassing love. Join me?
Prayer: God of love and life, I need to remember life is messy and that you are with me as I navigate the waters of my life journey. I want to trust your promise to be with me as I work on my messes. I know I won’t get it right all the time, but by leaning on your everlasting arms, I can lead a cleaner life. Thank you for your constant presence! AMEN.