It’s summer—but the pool’s not yet open, so my kids have been home a LOT! Every time I enter a room, be it their bedroom or a family area, I discover a new mess. We’ve already had the conversation about Mom not being a personal slave, about how my job in regards to their cleanliness is not to pick up after them so they can continue to be slobs for the rest of their lives but to prepare them to be good roommates (perhaps even spouses) and employees who notice and take care of their own messes. (There was a lot more, but I’ll spare you! I probably should have spared them!)
Ah, that word “notice,” as used in “notice their own messes.” It’s key for any sort of progress. Yesterday I sent the boys off to clean their room. They returned in three minutes. “Done,” they announced.
No way. I’d seen it that morning—and hours had passed since then, enough time for unheard-of chaos to happen.
I was right—shirts dripping out of drawers, dirty underwear peeking from under the dresser, a pile of clothes that looked like PJ had worn them in a mud wrestling event, granola bar wrappers on the floor, Legos in various stages of construction on every surface…
But here’s the thing: THEY thought it was clean.
I John 1 metaphorically fleshed out.
“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” NLV
The Amplified expands that first phrase to “(If we) refuse to admit that we are sinners.”
Sinners: unlike God, missing His mark of perfection, incomplete in strength and knowledge and will.
Here’s my version of that first phrase: “If I refuse to admit that I am messy.”
Messy: not perfect, prone to do/say/feel the wrong things, carrying baggage (some of it unknown), unable to truly know and follow the “right way.”
This past weekend—graduation weekend—I had a conversation with one of the international students that went something like this:
International Student (IS): I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t think I’m doing a good job saying goodbye with my friends, and there’s so much to do, and I know I’m not spending enough time with God, and that makes me feel worse and…” (She’s crying now.)
Me: What do you mean by “not spending enough time with God”?
IS: I’m not having devotions or praying. I can’t seem to get it all together so that I can.
Me: You don’t have to. Actually, you CAN’T. And He doesn’t want you to try. He wants you to come IN your mess, IN your humanity, and He wants you to cry out to Him. Right now you feel like God’s withdrawn because you’re so confused. He hasn’t; you’ve just built a wall between you and Him. He knows your mess and your inability. He died for it! Now let Him come into it and comfort you.
Lots of tears then, lots of hugging. So much better.
And as the old perfectionist (that’s me J) shared advice with the young perfectionist, I was preaching to myself.
I often don’t acknowledge my own messiness to God. I often try to deal with it in my way—which is the equivalent of my boys shoving clothes under beds, cramming overstuffed drawers halfway closed, and brushing litter into a pile in a corner.
In doing this, I cut myself off from the Gospel that God wants to work out in my life every day. I hold back from redemption.
If I’m going to embrace God’s redemption, I must also embrace an acknowledgement of my messiness.
He loves to cleanse.
And I need it…
‘Cause I am messy!