God was gracious to bring my son Shane into the world when He did. Many of you know that he came nearly 8 weeks early, and that he was in the NICU for 3 of them. "So how was God gracious?" You might ask. He was gracious because he caused me to go into parenting by jumping into the deep end, not allowing me to think about it.
I thought I had two more months. Two more months of not having to worry about dirty diapers, spit-up, sleepless nights, or other sacrifices that I would have to make to take care of him. But God didn't let me have the time to think about it. And He knew exactly what would help me to embrace the mess... to bring him early.
There's something about messiness that causes you to pause, right? No one really wants to get in the mud unless they are fully committed to getting dirty. I knew having a child would result in me being committed to getting dirty in some way, shape or form. Not that I have decided that dirty diapers are my favorite thing now, but I'm a lot more comfortable with them now than when I was calculating my "supposed" two months left of freedom.
I think the same way when it comes to other relationships. And, if we're honest with ourselves, I think we all think this way.
I'm not talking about their physical messiness... but emotional messiness, spiritual messiness. I don't know about you, but I'm often caught off guard by the sin of other believers. I get angry, and often catch myself asking, "Don't they know that's sin! They should stop doing that, especially in front of me!"
People are constantly blinded by their heavy emotions (I happen to be one of those people, by the way), and I often ask myself, "why can't they think properly! Can't they just see how God is working this for good!" I'm good at pointing out other people's mess... and then trying to avoid having to step into it with them. I avoid it either by drilling people on their issues until they fix it, or I just don't say anything.
But Jesus runs head first into the mess.
He came from His pristine seat in Heaven to enter the muck and mire that we created. Think of Philippians 2, where it says "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Jesus not only entered the mess, but He was destroyed by it so that we could be made clean. And now we're called to enter the mess by His power.
What does this even mean? It means that, when I'm with people who are struggling and hurting, instead of ignoring them by playing games on my iphone, I can engage and share the hurt with them. It means that I can love someone and remind them of the grace of the Gospel, even if all of their sin is coming out. It means that I can lovingly rebuke someone, knowing it's for their best interest, rather than hiding by not saying anything, fearing how someone might respond. It means I can be patient when someone isn't growing or understanding the gospel as quickly as I'd like. It means I can slow down and take time to understand and listen to someone who is melting down, rather than rushing in to fix a problem. It takes the focus off of me and what I want, and instead puts the focus on their needs and how I can serve.
The mess is no longer the biggest thing in my mind, as it's now the deep, awesome, powerful love of my savior who reigns above it.
How can you embrace the mess around you, rather than avoid it?