When I was young I thought I would be out of debt by the time I was thirty. When I was young I thought I would marry and live happily ever after. When I was young I thought I would have several children and they would be perfect copies of my wife and me. When I was young I thought by the time I was fifty life would have smoothed out and it would be peaceful sailing with sweet grandkids around and vacations monthly. When I was young I was stupid, naive, and idealistic to a fault.
What happened was no way near those wishful thoughts. Life turned out to be real messy. Instead of all that peace, it has had its large portions of turmoil. The ministry which in idealism is wonderful with the opportunities to help, to proclaim the Gospel, to see folks born from above, and the church moving in perfect harmony; really turned out to be far more difficult and a lot more rocky. Church can be messy.
So, I have learned that family, church, life in general, is really messy. I like a clean house and things in order, but every now and then you have to go in and clean and re-order things. Cars are the same way. They need cleaned every now and then or it starts looking like someone lives in there with the wrappers, bottles, cans, and miscellaneous debris. Life is messy.
We want things to be in order. We crave peace. We work hard at keeping things in place, but messes occur. We do not plan for them, but here they come. Some things that we think are so right can suddenly turn horrible. Case in point, we had a man who offered to lease back an airplane that he wanted us to have. He bought the airplane, put it in the ministry’s name, leased it back, payments were being made, at the end, the airplane would be the ministry’s. Looked good. What an opportunity. Economics changed as the government removed the GI bill for that form of education. The person leasing back bailed out, we could not make the payment through the ministry, a lawsuit ensued. Life got really messy. It eventually was settled out of court, but it was extremely messy, strenuous, stressful, life threatening in some sense.
Church gets messy too. We start out loving one another thinking all will be well for eternity. Well, for eternity it will be, but getting through this phase of life offers its challenges. We see things differently, we act differently, we emphasize different things. Life is messy.
What do we do with the messes? It would be easy to just judge everyone and walk away maybe. If our kids mess up, disown them. If our friends fall, write them off. Trouble at church, leave. Marriage problems, just divorce. The progression sounds like it would be a pretty lonely life.
But then, do we want to be alone? Do we really want to ruin our family, tear down our church, run off from our mate, and have no friends? No. We really do not want any of that. So, we have messes. Clean up in aisle 3.
I am reminded of the story of the man who was shipwrecked, alone on an island. The day he was rescued they found three huts that he had constructed. When asked what they were, he responded, the first one is where I live, the second one is where I go to church. Asked, well what is the third one, he responded, that is where I used to go to church. We sometimes cannot even get along with ourselves.
I have known parents, mothers in particular, who have labored for years in prayer and agony for their kids and grandkids. They have seen failures, jail time, drug rehab time, divorces, infidelities, business failures, financial struggles, heartbreak to the max. Yet, in the midst of the crises, there is hope because we do not give up. We hate the mess, but we are experts in clean up. The clean up can take years, but there is the constant hope. When doing clean up we take any little sign as a positive thing even though in the next minute it can go bad again.
Life is messy. God knows that. He still loves us and continues to work on our messes. We find grace in his heart toward us and even when we feel his disapproval there is an edge to it that offers hope. Is it not amazing that when we are in trouble, we want to go home? It seems there is acceptance at home. The prodigal turned homeward in the midst of his mess. The peace of home in his mind, even at a lower status in life, was still better than where his mess had him.
So in family and church we continue to love, work through the messes, and learn to love even in the midst of difficulty. We take the broken, we work with the imperfect, we accept when others reject. Oh, life is messy.