Right now, my kitchen is a mess. The counters are cluttered with dirty dishes and spotted with coffee stains. The garbage precariously piled in the trash can is about to overflow. A pile of dog food sits beside the dog food bowl. Who knows what that’s about? The tablecloth is littered with crumbs and a pile of brightly-colored rubber bands. Yeah, don’t even ask what’s up with the rubber bands, but it involves a son who one day may be featured on an episode of Hoarders.
As I look at this mess of a kitchen, I am thinking about how messy life is sometimes. Appliances break down, the kids all get the throw-up sickness at the same time, or the ceiling starts leaking. Or maybe it’s even more serious. I see the messiness of life all around me. Dark depression is settling over someone. A friend or acquaintance is being destroyed by addiction. A single mom struggles to make it all work. A family loses their home. A mom or grandma fights cancer. A woman grieves the baby she will never hold. A friend grapples with his past.
I have been in the thick of my own messiness at various times throughout the years. And I’ve been stretched outside my comfort zone to enter into the messiness of someone else’s life. Sure, there have been times I have cautiously waded into the messiness and decided I couldn’t deal, so I’ve turned myself around and hoped someone stronger and braver would come along and handle that mess with that person. But other times, I’ve prayed for courage and wisdom and I’ve gotten right into the muck and yuck of someone’s messy life.
And, honestly, I don’t know that I’ve helped all that much the way some people would measure help. But most people, I have learned, don’t want or need me to solve their problems anyway. People just want me to enter into their mess and listen and love them. And maybe they want a meal or a babysitter or some quarters for the cigarette machine at the prison. But mostly, people just want a friend who will love them enough to overcome a fear of the mess.
Every time, every single time, I’ve braved into someone’s mess it has been worth it. Oh, things haven’t always turned out like the happy ending of an After-School Special, but it has been worth it. My compassion and faith have grown. Love has been sown. And it has been worth the inconvenience and discomfort and yuck. Every time.
Let’s look around us this week. Whose mess do we need to enter into? Who needs a love stronger than our fear of the mess?