On the Value of Being Messy

"And you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine." 

"Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. . . .  It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."


I have been struggling deeply with questions of identity.  And not because Eve died -- although her death certainly made me unwilling to keep on living as if I had no questions when I did, and do.  No, I have been grappling with identity, with who-am-I-really and who-is-God-and-what-is-this-all-about, for my entire life. 

In my experience, childhood and the teenager years are a time when you learn about the world, are shown how to survive, and when you begin to discover who you are, the person that God created you to be.  You play, you make messes, you scrape your knees a lot, and you growing in the scraping and the mess-making.

That is not my story.  The messages communicated to me, both implicitly and explicitly, were quite different.  You are a problem.  You are inconvenient.  You are not loved if you make mistakes.  Your job is to be perfect.  Your job is to be who you are told to be, to do what you are told to do.  Don't ask questions.

The result of these messages?  Seventeen years of disordered eating to cope with feeling beaten down (seventeen years of mental illness that, thank God, have ended), and thirty years of not-knowing-who-I-am, of not trusting myself.  Not trusting my body when it tells me that it's full or it's tired or it's hurt.  Not trusting myself to make decisions, large or small.  Not trusting the beliefs or opinions or ideas or hopes that spring up in my head and heart.  Thirty years of not asking questions.

The only problem is -- the questions need to be asked.  The messes need to be made.  That's what the people who filled my mind with those false messages didn't understand.  Though I'm sure they loved me in their own way, they didn't understand that it is healthy to play and test and ask and fall.  And honestly, I didn't understand that myself until recently.  Losing Eve has brought that truth home even more strongly.  

So, having missed out on the many figuring-stuff-out opportunities the growing up years have to offer, I am asking the questions now.  I am embracing the mess.  Because if I am messy, there's no use pretending that I'm not just to please someone else (someone else who is probably denying their own messiness, too).  Life is messy.  Grief has taught me that. We might as well be honest about it.

This blog has been a part of that asking, that embracing, and it will continue to be.  But I am ready to start asking questions off the page, too, in the midst of life.  So I am trying to notice more -- notice the beauty and the pain and the exquisite mess of it all.  I try to notice how God enters in, how He is not afraid of the mess.  I am reading more poetry, and reading more in general, and more widely.  I am journaling more outside of this blog.  I am exploring through photography (like the one in this post -- it felt so vulnerable and tenuous that I knew I had to share, even though it makes me tremble).  I am trying to be honest -- with myself and with others.  I am done with hiding, done with being afraid.  I'm asking the hard, scary questions of God and about God, because not doing so turns my heart stony. 

More than that, I am choosing to believe that I am who God says I am, and that His love is as extravagant and graceful and depths-plumbing as the Bible describes it to be.  See that quote from Ephesians 1 at the top of this post?  It says that I am chosen (you are, too).  It tells me that the messages of my youth were wrong, and I am fighting hard to believe that.  It says that I am wanted, valuable in Christ.  It does not say, "God chooses as the focus on His love when we are perfect" or "when we are not messy" or "when we've got it all together."  No, it says that He chose us, period.  That I am valued, period. 

So I'm resting on that, and asking the messy, scabby, difficult questions and figuring out how to be the person He made me to be, how to trust that His workmanship is solid.  I know that He can take it.

This post feels clumsy, limping.  But it's an honest start, and that's something.

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