When Glennon over at Momastery announced her MESSY, BEAUTIFUL WARRIORS project for fellow bloggers, I fell off my stool. (No, really, I did. I’m a klutz. Plus a leg of the stool was caught in a satchel atop one of the piles beneath my desk, and when I tried to lift the stool ever so slightly so I could read about it, I fell off. And then I thought, “Well, isn’t THAT special.”) Anyway, Glennon’s timing was fortuitous, because eight weeks before, I had created my blog In The Messy about finding beauty in the mess–finally embracing my mess instead of making excuses for it. There are many reasons why messy fits my life, at multiple depths. First, I’ll visit the shallow end…with floaties on, of course. Baby steps.
#1: I am messy.
At any given time I have like 14 piles of papers on multiple surfaces. I get analysis paralysis and don’t know where to start, so I just walk away (it’s much easier that way). I hate to dust. I deplore putting away laundry. My clothes live in piles on my floor, my chair, my closet, my basement. I walk by clutter on the floor over a dozen times before I finally succumb to it and put it where it belongs. (Husband likes to see how long it will take for me to do this. It’s a cute little game we play.) But allowing myself to be messy gives me the freedom to actually do more living. So, I survive by embracing life while living in my messy. My new mantra:
#2: My kids are messy.
Like most kids, they love being dirty. But mine really, really love it. My own messiness helps me accept (with minor grumbling) their messiness. All three of them are creative, imaginative kids. If I squelch their messiness, I might squelch their creativity. Right? At least that’s what I tell myself. But time and time again, the moments that I witness them living and loving life with abandon… are when they are being messy with abandon. Truly experiencing life means getting lots of dirt under your fingernails. Literally and figuratively.
#3: Our dog is messy.
This is Moz, our 2-year old Springer Spaniel. She is definitely messy. Absolutely without a doubt, Moz is loving life most when she’s messy. Her mantra: Life just isn’t as meaningful if you’re always clean.
#4: My home is messy.
I actually do carry guilt about this one. I berate myself about how messy my home is, how messy I am, how messy my car is. I compare myself to friends who always have sparkly homes and are able to keep everything in its sunshine-y place, like they’re in a commercial for Windex.
I secretly envy their homes. But deep down, I guess I have always believed that my messiness is okay or I would find a way to change it. I live my life and spend time on what I feel is meaningful. I am needed more elsewhere, and so I spend time elsewhere. And it’s obviously not in my children’s bathroom…
But of course, my ‘messy beautiful’ essay is not just about literal messes (I recognize that I co-share this messy fault with gazillions of women). Because that kind of messy is so trivial and easy to admit. So now I think it’s time for me to be a big girl and take off my floaties, and—with abandon—jump into the diving well…because #5 is where messy hits the fan.
#5: My sin is messy.
So often I find myself like the Apostle Paul—certainly not in his goodness, but in his messiness. I’m referring to his letter to the Romans when he says,
“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
I battle with this weekly. Daily. By the hour. I start off the day convincing myself I am going to live a day led by the Spirit and not from my flesh, but I fail before I even make it to the garage for 8:50am carpool. I KEEP DOING THE VERY THINGS I HATE ABOUT MYSELF. (Ugh!)
So many times with my children,
- I deliver judgment — instead of lavishing mercy.
- I bark out critical words — instead of offering life-giving words.
- I am disappointed when things that ‘should’ come easily are challenging for them — instead of cherishing the precious truth that they are their own unique creation.
I’ll judge people (never, ever) by what they don’t own — but by the material things they do own. (And that type of judgement is just as bad, of course.) I’ll judge the coach of a college team rival and call him a schmuck via social media (just did this last night, actually). Of course, I could dig a proverbial hole to China with the things that I keep doing that I hate doing. I will spare you the ongoing confessional, but my point is this:
There is one Person who shows us how to find the beauty in our messiness, even when we think we’re a lost cause. And it is into His hands that I place my messy life.
Jesus says it’s okay to be messy, because He has plenty of grace to cover our mess. He came down to die for our mess so that we wouldn’t have to remain eternally messy. And while on this earth, I trust that He is there in my messiness–working in it and through it, actually using it. Just like how He was able to work through the twelve Apostles–the ones to whom God entrusted the spread of His Gospel to the ends of the earth. And more good news: The Twelve Were Messy! I mean, look at some of them:
- There’s Matthew, the tax collector who (by nature of his profession) was despised. Tax collectors = infamous for being crooked and embezzling money. Messy.
- There’s the zealot, Simon. Zealots were Jewish nationalists who hated the Roman occupation of Israel; they were known for starting murderous riots and revolts. (I can hardly blame them; the Romans were jerks then.) Messy.
- And then there are Andrew, James, Peter, and John– a bunch of simple fishermen. Fishing in ancient Israel was not an easy occupation; it was difficult work with long hours. Fishermen were not very educated, either. Somewhat Messy. (Mostly Smelly.)
- And then there’s Judas. I mean, seriously? Maybe (ironically) the most well-known of the Apostles, betrayed the one who would die for him with a kiss, and for 30 pieces of silver handed Jesus over to be arrested…leading to his crucifixion days later. That is Extremely Messy.
Only God could choose the messiest of us and use us for good things. Beautiful things. Eternal things. Jesus didn’t choose his Apostles based on their social status or political views. He wasn’t concerned with their degrees or their education, even their spiritual knowledge or piety. (And He certainly wouldn’t have cared about how many Pinterest creations they contributed!) Instead, Jesus chose the everyday people–realistic, tough, flawed, ordinary people–to do the extraordinary.
And the best part? God invites us to follow in their messy footsteps. So if finding life in our messy beautiful and then sharing that life with the world is good enough for the Son of God, then it is without a doubt good enough for messy me.
Oh, wait! I almost forgot…
#6: The Dead, Smelly Fish is messy.
On a family visit to a local restaurant down by the river, we walked to the dock to watch the boaters and to check out the scenery. On one side of the dock was a beautiful sunset. And on the other… a dead, smelly fish. Isn’t that just like life? There’s beauty… and there’s messy, right there in the beauty.
So, Warrior…when you’re face to face with a dead, smelly fish, simply turn around. There’s a beautiful sunset to be found—but sometimes you have to look deep into the messy beautiful to find it.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!