No really, I am a mess.
I am an open person by nature. I have been accused of having no filter. It is true that if someone asks me how I am doing, I will actually tell them. Sometimes this works against me, because not everyone actually wants to have a deep talk at the checkout counter. And I am a mess, but I am also a blessed and happy. There are two sides to that coin, but we struggle to find balance.
Messy lives are all the rage right now.
This wasn’t always the case. In the 80’s I distinctly recall having to be the perfect Christian because if we weren’t God would look so bad, non Christians would clap and holler about hypocrisy, and then the whole gig would be up. So those poor confused believers continued to struggle with sin and failure behind closed doors, in order to save face. They lied, cheated, gossiped, and hated each other, but pretended they didn’t. Because Christians behaved. And good behavior earned heavenly brownie points, and God’s favor. For the cause of Christianity, we kept up the front. I fell into this trap too, because it was all I knew, but it seemed so overwhelming, having to protect God’s image so others would believe He was good, even though I wasn’t.
It is finished. (That really meant it was finished.)
I didn’t realize that Jesus conquered sin, and I had freedom in that, which was why it was called Good News. I didn’t understand I was a mixture of sin and holiness and sanctification took time, sometimes even decades. As our pastor told us, “You can’t, after all, see a tree grow.” I thought I had to be all put together before I approached God. I felt confused that I was a lame Christian. But I kept putting on the mask, because it was crucial to appear good. I gave no thought to my prideful heart, because I truly thought my efforts made God love me more.
Fast forward to twenty years.
There was a new message going around, and this message was ushered along by social media. Everyone began to shout their faults from the rooftops. “We are messy!” “We are failures!” “Look how authentic we are, wretched sinners, saved by grace.” All that is true. And it felt good to know I wasn’t alone in my depravity. But it seemed we began to identify more with our sin than God’s redemptive work in us. Women showed pictures of their messy houses, and we would all feel better about ourselves. Moms admitted to being impatient and angry. They actually didn’t like helping their kids with their homework and made meals from tin cans. And we all breathed a sigh of relief. I know that God uses our darkest places to grow us and change us, but using sin as our identity is only half the story. We can’t take it so far that we cheer for each other’s failings because it makes our own seem not so bad.
If Jesus died in our place, we don’t have to be perfect. He is enough. On the other hand, if you feel you give God a good record due to your amazing efforts and morality, then you have pride that needs to go. We aren’t saved because we are superior to others, we are saved because of Jesus alone.
The Gospel keeps us from swinging from one side or the other.
We have heard Tim Keller state it so well,
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
News Flash: Christians are hypocrites. They are much worse, in fact. We can’t hide it. But we also aren’t slaves to it because we are new creatures in Christ, and there is hope that all things will be redeemed. We should be real with others about our struggles, but we also rest knowing that God will change us. I rejoice in this because I get so frustrated at myself and my failings. But it is called Good news for a reason. We aren’t a part of some cosmic self-help program, we are rescued and loved and accepted because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. It feels too good to be true at times.
How does this relate to marriage?
It helps us to be real about our true need for grace, and it keeps us from giving up due to our lack of ability to love each other well. We find our identity not in our efforts, nor in our failings, but in Jesus. It’s an amazing balance, realizing that we are wretched but loved anyway. How can you help but stay married if you fully understand this?
Matt Chandler said, “Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I am staying.”
Imagine if we lived that quote.
Imagine if we loved that way, the way we are loved by God. It would keep us from wearing masks, and it would keep us from laying down and wallowing in our mistakes. It would allow us to extend compassion to each other, because we know our own need for it. It would inspire us to be patient, knowing that change takes time, and that God is faithful. He loved us at our worst, and won’t leave us when we don’t measure up. There is hope, because we are accepted, not condemned. But not forever, because of God’s promise to redeem all things.
So while messy is so trendy right now, let’s not leave it there. All things will be redeemed and we have incredible hope as we walk through the process of being changed.