I thought I had already picked a “word” for 2016. Something to anchor me to a purpose, a characteristic I wanted to develop, a place I planned to focus in growth.
And, while I still love the word rooted and all that it implies in my walk with God, I think He might be changing the word He wants me to focus on.
There’s this tool called Soularium that we use for ministry within Cru. It is a stack of photographs which you spread out on the table and use to start conversation, typically evangelistic in nature. It’s incredible how students will relate cards to where they wished they were in life, what they think God is like, and how they would describe their spiritual journey.
As someone who loves to think in metaphors, though, I enjoy using these cards to start conversations with others simply regarding where they are in life right now and even for personal reflection in my own story.
As I was using Solarium with a group of students a couple of weeks ago, I came across this card:
My initial reaction noticed that it was blurry and messy. Maybe from a group of people who have finished dinner but have yet to clean up.
The word messy has come up for me a lot lately, and I first found myself hoping God wasn’t doing that on purpose.
When journaling and praying, I have repeated ideas that communicate feeling “all over the place” and wanting to be able to “get myself together.” I have felt a lack of consistency in so many internal areas and daily disciplines, when I typically feel like I am someone who is a little more leveled out. When sitting down with a counselor several weeks ago, it’s the word that kept coming out of my mouth to describe how I have felt and why I wanted to talk to her. Eric has told me he thinks I am the “even keel” one in our relationship, but I have begun to doubt that role over the past few months.
I don’t like for life to be messy. I like order, control, efficiency. Heck, I have a planner that breaks up my day by the hour so I can quickly see what gaps are in my schedule and how I can make the most of them. While my home is not spotless, it is generally well-organized and requires very little tidying up before guests arrive. (The clean aspect is what requires more effort, thanks to an incredibly sweet but ridiculously furry dog.)
But the Holy Spirit has been at work to show me how quickly I attach to those for security instead of to Christ.
Confessions about this season in my life: I find myself needing to cry once a week instead of my previous patterns of once every six to eight weeks or so. I can’t predict or control my days where I am fine and my days where I am overwhelmed with sadness. Today, for instance, I am totally fine with not being pregnant yet. In two days (or even two hours), that might change. Words are my thing, but I haven’t known how to put into words what I am walking through on the hard days. Then on days where I am feeling great about life, I feel separated from that struggle and can’t necessarily process the pain.
I kind of just feel all over the place, and that hasn’t been normal for me.
As I have recognized this messiness in my life, though, and as I have had courage to admit it, I have experienced a new sort of freedom. A weight off my shoulders. I have noticed that others don’t expect me to be perfect – they have grace for me and want me to share, not hide, my confusion. It was I who didn’t have grace for myself, and now admitting that I don’t have it all together releases a deep breath and relief.
But no one wants to be messy or needy, right?
Who would embrace that word to define their focus for the year?
As I continued in conversation with the group of college girls gathered over the table of pictures, another image caught my eye.
It, too, is messy. But it’s beautiful – one of those that deserves to have some sort of inspirational quote dancing across in scrawls and swirls.
I began to ask myself what the differences were between the two pictures of messy situations.
The dinner table signifies a mess that needs to be cleaned immediately. Eric and I have a hard time being able to relax in the evening if the kitchen is still a wreck from dinner, so he graciously does the dishes right after we finish eating while I put away leftovers. That picture also signifies that the fun has already happened; no one looks forward to cleaning up after a wonderful meal. That means the evening has ended and the fun is over.
However, the tangle of teacups and paintbrushes and dirty water notes that something special is being created. The artist might still be in the midst of the process, but there’s beauty in the middle of that mess. There’s promise that something special is being created, so that even when it is time to clean up, there is tangible evidence to add purpose to the mess.
I want to embrace life being messy with the view that it is producing something. I might still be in the middle of the mess, and the painting may be far from done, but there is something lovely about the process. Being messy, for me, reminds me that I don’t have the ability to put it all back together, and it therefore brings me to my knees more quickly in my need for God.
I am seeing that I cannot always wrap my arms around life and wrangle it in to my understanding or my control. Sometimes it’s wild and unorganized and uncertain. But in those moments, I can lean on a constant God for stability, embracing exactly where He has put me, trusting that He is creating something purposeful and beautiful.
His grace keeps me close when all else threatens to unhinge me. His grace teaches me to stay sane in the midst of messy. So I will embrace a messy life that carries the hope of how my God is at work and the promise that “He Who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).
I might still work to keep my home and my calendar pretty organized, though. Pretty sure that will help with sanity in the midst of life’s unpredictability.