Is your life a mess?
Has it ever been?
I hope so.
I'm talking about break-ups, mistakes, upheavals, problems, bad decisions, and all the rest of the dramas and difficulties.
Messiness makes us learn. It opens up places in us that we likely wouldn't have explored if things hadn't gotten so messy.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I observe a fear in the world that sometimes creeps into us – a fear of being messy. I want to expose and talk about this fear because it is so dangerous to health and happiness.
This fear draws our attention away from the things it should be on – learning, growing, living deeply, and puts it on appearances. The longer we indulge this fear, the less likely we are to try something new, be willing to learn, or admit a mistake. Ultimately, the fear of being messy causes us to become rigid and cease to progress.
Messes happen in our lives when we encounter the results of a bad decision or false assumption. The only way to really avoid messes is to be perfect. But, of course, humans do make mistakes and have false assumptions. They are not perfect. In fact, the only way to become more perfect, is to reveal the perfection of God within.
Messes are great for that! Often messes are so uncomfortable that they force us to be honest with ourselves in ways we never thought we could. That honesty is great for revealing God's goodness in us. Messes are the mistake revealing itself, and our opportunity to correct them. They are nothing to fear! We serve ourselves (and others!) so much better when we cease to care about appearances, and instead, are only interested in learning our mistake and fixing it.
The danger is when we are so afraid of being messy, or appearing messy, that we would rather not learn about the mistake. Then we put off honesty, we delay integrity, and we pay for it later. The sensibility that fears a mess is actually a frame of mind that subtly assumes that life is material – that what you see is what you get. This mindset feels safe in its situation, and wants to keep things how they are - at the expense of growth and humility. But, that materialistic mindset is not safe in its situation. Sooner or later, that deferred honesty, the delayed integrity erupts in the life and creates a much larger mess than it would have been had it been addressed in the first place.
The kind of honesty that saves us from this holds the bar high. It's not always easy. In fact, the only way to truly not fear these messes erupting in our lives is to feel more of God's consistency and goodness as the real constants in our lives.
Certainly messes for their own sake are useless. And once we have learned a particular lesson, there is no reason to have to learn it again. But, if my life is to be one of continued learning, then I am sure to continue to make mistakes as the things I am learning become more advanced and subtle. In short, a life well-lived will be full of mistakes! It will also be much more full of good decisions, victories, and powerful living that is based on all the insights gained through resolving problems and cleaning up messes. The outward messes become less and less scary because through our living we learn that our home, our security is not so much in our outward situation, but in our unchanging connection to God.
Is a mess-less life the Christian ideal? Absolutely not. Outwardly Jesus Christ had a messy life. He was consistently in conflict with others. He was in trouble with the law and had pretty pronounced conflicts with members of his family and community. What about other heroes? Any one worth his or her salt had messes. Probably some big ones. Jesus said "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." I understand this to mean that Jesus calls us to follow him, and that in doing so, our messes will be revealed, and cleaned up. Not that we will just BE mess-less!
Living the ideals of Christianity (love, spirituality, forgiveness, purity, courage, etc.) cleanses our lives of the causes of messes – selfishness, dishonesty, fear. But the process of living those ideals is very often not a smooth road. And that's just fine.
Let's be honest with ourselves! The Bible tells us over and over that the effect of God is to overturn all that is wrong. Christ says "I am not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword." We have nothing to fear from God, Love, though God's action in our lives is sometimes to overturn our wrong assumptions and mistakes. It is always for our own good, and brings healing and peace much faster than any other approach to life. We must admit our mistakes and correct them. We must humbly accept the chastening that life brings to us, and work our way through it, becoming better. This is the way that we most quickly pass through them, learn the lessons of life and love, and never return to those messes. Then, we are ever onward to new and greater labors and loves.