Friday, August 15, 2008

"I'm a Mess!!"

That is a mantra I often repeat (or sometimes exchange for, "I'm a disaster!"). My experiences in Christian counseling and reading John Eldredge's books revealed that my "false self" is that of competence. I love to pretend that I have it all together. But anyone who really knows me realizes this is not the case. All too often I lose my car in an airport parking garage, travel fifty miles in the wrong direction on the interstate, or use baking soda instead of baking powder, turning the cherry cobbler into cherry mush. While these experiences can sometimes be humiliating, I've been slowly learning to laugh at my messiness (which, as my roommates and my mother can attest to, is actually quite literal in the kitchen!) Perhaps this is why I've always been so drawn to I Love Lucy. Lucy is transparent about being a mess in a way that I longed to be in my younger years. Now that I have (mostly) given up trying to appear competent, she encourages me in my learning.

I truly am a mess. So when I read about a different kind of messiness in "The Shack," I was moved to tears. I won't give away the plot of this recent bestseller, which seems to be especially popular in Nashville. Some parts are a little cheesy, and I certainly don't agree with everything Young writes, but taken for what it's worth (one person's imperfect understanding of God), it's good literature.

My favorite part of the book is when Mack, the protagonist, is working in the garden with Sarayu, the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. Here is a snippet:

It was chaos in color. His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty. Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetebals and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen. It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.

"From above it's a fractal," Sarayu said over her shoulder with an air of pleasure.

"A what?" asked Mack absentmindedly...

"A fractal...something considered simple and orderly that is actually composed of repeated patterns no matter how magnified. A fractal is almost infintely complex. I love fractals, so I put them everywhere."

"Looks like a mess to me," muttered Mack under his breath.

Sarayu stopped and turned to Mack, her face glorious. "Mack! Thank you! What a wonderful compliment!" She looked around the garden. "That is exactly what this is--a mess. But," she looked back at Mack and beamed, "it's still a fractal, too."

..."But it really is beautiful, and full of you, Sarayu. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comfortable here."

Sarayu stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. "And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is
you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me [sic], I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive--a living fractal."

Perhaps I need to spend even more time declaring what a mess I am--not my mind and its sometimes spastic functions, but my heart. I judge others and neglect to show grace and think of my own comfort and fail to forgive and overindulge and gossip and show contempt for my neighbor. I dwell on things that aren't lovely and refuse to be content and look to my own strength and put myself before the good of others. I am a mess!! But in all that mess, the Holy Spirit is at work because of Christ in me! God sees me, in the midst of my messy heart, as a lovely work in progress.

Let us live as beautiful messes before the Lord who sees, and chuckles, and gets out the hoe!

"...He who began a good work in you will be faithful to carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

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