The Mess Is Me

I think the way I see the world is how Joanna Gaines sees a crummy old house. “This wall can be torn down, hardwoods here, new light fixture, and all new appliances.”

There’s no regard for what’s actually there. No, I want to focus on all that will come, all that can be.

If we’re talking in terms of the glass half full or empty cliché, I’m demanding that it doesn’t matter whether it’s half full or empty, someone had better just fill it up so that it’s all-the-way full and there’s no argument anymore.

I want to fix all the crooked picture frames, color coordinate my closet, and arrange the throw pillows just so.

When Stu and I disagree on something, no matter where we are, we’re working it out right then. There’s no waiting until we’ve cooled off. I’ll drag him around a corner or stop the car or run late so that we can resolve it right now. Sitting in the conflict feels like someone peeling off my toenails one by one.

I will never hold a grudge against you. But I will demand we work out our differences immediately, even while we’re shoulder to shoulder with every other DC commuter on the 5 pm metro.

Conflict, imperfection of any sort, is deeply unsettling for me.

Sometimes the brokenness of this world feels like it’s going to absolutely destroy me. I run myself ragged trying to create a space, any space, of perfection and purity so that I can just be. So that my eyes won’t twitch and shift into every nook and cranny finding the problems. So that I can rest.

And then, just when I think I’ve found one, I feel the same, even worse maybe, than before. And like a crazy person I crumble because I realize the mess has been there all along. The mess was there even when my environment was as obsessively clean as could be. The mess follows me everywhere: the mess is me.

In that desperate moment I understand: while I fret around trying to fix and tidy and solve and resolve the only thing that precariously keeps me going, like a smoking motor, is my own fragility. It’s much easier to look at how messed up everything else is than to confront how messed up I am.

It’s hard for me to acknowledge that I’m broken, but my fingers twitch to write and my brain staggers to acknowledge that even though I’m broken I’m still loved. I’m still valued. I’m redeemed. I’m precious in God’s sight.  I’m not just a spliced shard, not a broken toy in need of fixing, I’m a sinner, yes, but I’m also a saint (Philippians 1:1).

Where this leaves me is pretending I’m a little tainted, sure, but that I’m not beyond repair. I’m a little selfish and obsessive and cold and too headstrong but I’m going to fix that all someday soon, right?

Wrong. I’m certainly not there yet, but I’m working on believing: I am, on my own, actually beyond repair. I’m not going to fix it. I CAN’T fix it.

But someone has. Not me, definitely not, but Someone. I alone am hopeless, but there is another source of Hope.

You and I are being redeemed. Every day, every moment. Even in the most horrifying of times, where our brokenness is on full display, we are still loved. Not for all we hope to do to make ourselves better, but simply for who we are.

The world is messy, so messy, it makes my skin crawl.

But I am messy, too, maybe even messier.

And the tension, the scary, crackly tension where I sit while I know I’m totally broken along with everything else, is teaching me quite a lot lately. It’s healing me. It’s soothing my racing brain from having all the answers. It’s lemon and honey tea for my scratchy throat that screeches at the world to figure itself out, it’s a summer breeze of relief while the sweat of indignation beads down my forehead.

I’m learning to love the tension. The tension is my balm and my vice, the tension is what’s healing me.

The world is being redeemed, and we are part of that redemption.

We will never, ever, have it all figured out.

There is chaos in this life that will not unfurl until Christ returns.

The tension and the mess are humbling and teaching you more than most other things can.

Best of all, you are being redeemed, and you are loved even, especially, when you are most desperately broken.


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