I walked into my daughter and son-in-law’s house to the shouts of grandkids screaming “Mimi!” and then gasped: it looked like a tornado had demolished the house. Toys, dirty socks, shoes, pj’s, discarded papers and fruit snacks cluttered the living room floor. I followed the trail of cheerios into the kitchen as I tried to find an open counter to drop the homemade soup I brought for lunch. How can they live like this? And then I was reminded that this seemingly chaotic house was actually full of love and joy and I loved it.
They embraced messiness to keep connection. With active two and four year old kids and working multiple jobs, they had chosen clutter over disengagement with their kids. Rather than a spotless house, they chose irreplaceable fleeting moments teaching their kids about family.
Life today never stops.
Down time has become a luxury as the treadmill of life continues being turned up to a faster pace. Technology allows us to take in more and go faster, so we do. For many who can’t keep pace the alternative is to shut down, disengage and isolate ourselves. Statistics reveal that loneliness and depression are growing at a record pace, and having thousands of “friends” on Facebook isn’t the same as having real friends. In fact, psychologists tell us that if you have four real friends today you’re lucky.
Isolation is a global problem.
The UK now has a Minister of Loneliness to evaluate what’s causing such epidemic levels in that country and to create solutions. Researchers reveal that 42% (nearly half of all Americans), say they sometimes or always feel lonely and that loneliness contributes to a higher rate of mortality than obesity and is equal to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. And the most lonely aren’t the elderly, but young people. What’s the cause? The top reason is our addiction to smartphones and social media. We’ve become a culture of social comparison trying to keep up with the constant barrage of selfies living the “good life.” Or at least that’s what we want people to think. The other big reason for increased loneliness is even more interesting. We don’t want to be inconvenienced. We don’t want to be bothered or bother anyone else. Showing our flaws just isn’t cool. “Friends” might “unfriend” us and especially with teens, might bully us.
We don’t want to engage in the mess.
It’s too time-consuming – too hard to get involved in someone’s life. And, we don’t want other’s messing in ours either. They might want to change us and that would be really messy. We’d rather just live in the mess. But mess is what Jesus has called us to do as believers. He never chose a life of wealth and status. He embraced the lepers, the sick and the blind. He met the outcast woman at the well and went to the scorned tax collector’s house for dinner. He loved the unloved and the messy.
We need to stop thinking of the Church as a sanctuary and start thinking of it as a hospital. It’s not a hiding place but a community of imperfect people who need the constant insurgence of our healing Lord Jesus.
Artist, writer, speaker and paraplegic, Joni Eareckson-Tata, says, “God wants us to live in reality, and sin can deceive us. Sin loves isolation and keeping people at an arms-length distance. Sin sometimes materializes as fear—of getting involved, saying the wrong thing, or unintentionally hurting someone.”
God is calling us to be courageous with the kind of boldness that allows us to confront our fears and messy sins.
God promises that if we will, He will be there when we don’t have all the answers.
As believers, He challenged us to ask questions of those who are suffering and engage in their mess. We need to stop saying “let me know what I can do” and instead say, “here is what I can do and want to do. When can I start? Here I am, I’m scared to death, I have no idea what I am doing or how to help, and I will probably screw things up but I’m willing. “
Our job is to never stop reaching out to others because Jesus didn’t. He had a death sentence from the time he was born – a ticking clock inside of Him yet his life was focused on serving others. Even on the cross, he was reaching to save, comfort and heal.
Isolating ourselves is what the deceiver wants us to do.
He knows that in the middle of the mess, when we are grounded in Jesus, we find purpose and ultimate joy. It’s that kind of family mess that you don’t notice because you see only what God says really matters. His joy and love.
It’s why even in life’s destruction there is a calm center and the peace of Jesus in the eye of the storm. When we say yes to those who inconvenience our lives, we rebel against isolation and shatter loneliness and depression. And we teach the next generation, what really matters. We stop the endless life of comparison and start being compassionate and selfless. We giggle with joy at the mess.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Psalm 56:8, NLT