I laughed when I realized how many years it took to discover who I am.... by first zealously exploring who I am not

Friday, January 11, 2013

Messy Christianity

When I was a child I had the messiest room you have ever seen. No matter what, I could never keep my room clean. It was awful. I got more spankings and punishments for my messy room than I did anything else. I just couldn't keep it clean. My mom would always say in her mother voice "A place for everything and everything in it's place" which is great if you remember where "the place" was that everything was supposed to go. But I had other things to do. Like drawing, pretending to be a mommy with my baby dolls (who by the way, I didn't care if they cleaned their room or not, cause I was an awesome babydoll mommy) singing loudly to oldies music, playing dress up, etc. It was a full plate for little girl and much more important than cleaning my room. Fast forward many years and I am now the one fussing at my kids to clean their room, put their things away, etc. "Why is your room so messy? Can't you put your laundry in the right drawer? My kids give me the same look I gave my mom-- the look that says mom don't you know I have better things to worry about?

Mess. It means something so different to adults then it does to kids. As adults we want order, lists, details. Kids want..... well kids want to be kids. To live in the moment. To be loved. To be accepted. To laugh, play games, smile, and to eat. They always want to eat. I think we tend to be the same way about church. We want our faith, our beliefs, our "charities" to all fit in neat boxes. A box for Sunday, a box for the children's program, a box for the youth, a box for giving, a box for the needy.

The problem is that this faith, this walk that we are on is not packaged and organized in neat little baskets on a shelf. It's a breathing organism teeming with life and it's messy. It's the equilivent of getting your baby dressed in a beautiful outfit only to walk out the door and find out they have poop going up their back. You can't plan it. You can't organize it. Because when you live in the little boxes you miss the part that's alive and growing around you.  You know what the great thing about it is though? That in the messiness, in the parts we can't control- that's how God does some of His greatest work. When my mess gets out of hand He uses someone to come and help me and be a part of it. My mess might have leaked over into your life, but that's ok because I'm not called to carry my mess by myself. We are called as the body of Christ to carry one another's messes. (or burdens, use whatever word works for ya) to encourage, lift up, exhort. To be there. The simply be a part of one another's life.

Maybe that's a difficult concept for someone. Maybe you read this, giggle cause I said poop, nod because in theory you agree and move on in your life. Or maybe you read this, giggle cause I said poop, and stop. Stop and ask God. Where have I organized and cleaned you out of my life? Where have I missed your plans, because they were to messy for me to get my hands in? We live in a messy world. Our hope is not in knowing that Jesus is going to clean our rooms, it's knowing that at the end of the mess, He is always there. Leading us through the mess to a place where we see Him and He changes us, so that through us others find Him. Do you get that? Do you get that it's not about what "works" for us? It's about what changes us so others can see that He is in the midst of their own mess. We have GOT to stop trying to clean up everything and everyone. Just be in the moment. Love people, Accept people. Laugh, Smile. Wade through the messiness and find someone that needs you.

May you be covered in all the messiness the world has to offer today and laugh the whole time!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lessons from Les Miserables

Last night Jeremy and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. I can't believe it's been 16 years. I can honestly say that I love this man I share my life with more today than I ever have. But in full disclosure, we only knew each other 19 days before we got married so up was really the only way to go.

For our anniversary we went to see Les Miserables. This is one of Jeremy's favorite musicals. I have heard all the music and knew the story, but I have never seen the show. If you don't know the story here is a quick synoposis.  Jean Valjean has served 19 years in a work prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister.When he finally becomes free, through many circumstances he is faced with a turning point to live his life for good. However, Inspector Javert who had been one of the guards when he was enslaved in the galleys, figures out who he is. The way the story is written you are set up to see Jean Valjean as the good guy and Javert as the bad. However, as I watched the story weave last night in the theatre, I saw something different. I saw Javert as a man who was upholding the law as it had been taught to him. In his mind there was the law, and punishment had to be dealt in order to uphold the value and the letter of the law. Jean Valjean represented grace and redemption, but that was not what Javert was hired to do. He was hired to make sure it was carried out. It was having a bird's eye view to see both sides and to see that neither was the enemy, they were simply on different sides of the circumstance. Javert wasn't evil, he just didn't know or understand how to operate in grace. He could have learned a few things from Jean Valjean. But not knowing didn't make him the enemy. In the end of the movie, he lets Jean Valjean go but in the process of giving out grace, commits suicide because he can't live with the thought of not delivering out a just punishment. Watching that unfold made me look at circumstances that have happened in my life. Have I applied grace? Am I looking to mete out punishment for unatoned sins? Am I holding someone or something to my standards without offering a chance for change or redemption?

I think we all, in the best and worst of circumstances, play to one character or the other. Sometimes to the detriment of ourselves, or of others. We miss God's plan because it doesn't look or seem the way that we think it should. Someone doesn't act or respond the way we think they should. What is our responsibility? Judgment or grace? What has God really called us to do? I think that we are called to be many things in different circumstances. Sometimes we need to offer grace, sometimes we need to stand firm in the truth and the word. However all things must be done in love. That is the responsibility we carry as Christians. Regardless of the person or circumstances, we must always wrap every thought, conversation and relationship in love. The Bible says that they know we are Christians by our love. So we must always be careful that we represent Christ in our actions, our deeds and our words. In the last several months, I have played both parts in my life.  I've also learned especially in the last couple of months that life is to short to hold everyone to a list of standards. That grace and forgiveness go a long way, even when it isn't returned. That all I can control is my responses, and my judgments. I've come to the realization that it just isn't worth it. It's not worth the stress, concern, pain and confusion that it brings with it. I've also learned that someone coming to me and saying I love you and I'm sorry goes so much further than any "lesson" they want to teach me. I've experienced first hand the difference something wrapped  in love does. I've learned that the compassion in their eyes comes out in the words they are saying and it touches that deep place where God heals and touches our hearts. God used someone last week to do this for me and I'm amazed at the difference it has made and in my ability to release and let go. You should try it. I dare ya!

May you enter this new year submerged a little deeper into the love of Christ and share that love with everyone you meet.