- Family and Parenting
The Flip Side of the Messes in Life
Every day we encounter so many messes. What is our response? Some days I tend to growl and snarl and pretty soon the whole family is growling and snarling right along with me. I become the pace setter and everyone joins in. It is the easier response. But what if I swam against the current so to speak? What if I had a response that wasn't quite so natural? What if there is a flip side to the mess - a different side to the story?
I began looking.
Jam on the rug
Definitely, there was jam on the rug. This is not a desired event. It could easily stain, the rug is new, jam is sticky, the jam should not be on the carpet; there are so many reasons to be grumpy about jam on the rug.
However, the guilty little culprit tells a different story. She was trying to open the door while balancing her plate with the other hand. The door is a little bit heavy for her eight year old arms and as she pulled on the door, the toast flew off her plate. The reason she was trying to open the door was because it was a beautiful day and we were eating breakfast outside. Breakfast outside with your children is wonderful. After winter, with blustery winds and ice and sleet, who wouldn't rejoice about breakfast outside with warm weather and the smell of morning and the sound of birds singing?
Which response is most valid? Looking down and growling about jam, or revelling in a spring morning?
Dirt in the garage
I walked into the garage and there it was a big bouquet of wildflowers picked by the river and below the flowers a spill of potting soil and a mess of buckets. The mess was not pleasing. Our garage is in a process of being cleaned and organized after our recent move and I growled. But as I looked at the huge bouquet I felt bad about growling. Those flowers were gathered by my daughter. She had wandered through a field knee deep in grass. She had biked one handed up the hill to our house her face smiling and eyes shining, hugging a huge bouquet in her other arm. It is a lovely flip side to the mess.
Which part of the story do I want to dwell on? Isn't the lovely part the longest and best part?
Children and freezies
Another mess in the newly wiped up kitchen. Freezie ends and scissors scattered on the counter bleeding out bits of frozen, sticky juice. I feel the growl rising. I hate sticky freezie garbage.
But the flip side of the mess looks up at me through two sets of blue eyes and one set of brown eyes. There they are, all sucking happily on their snack, nestled together with their father. Somehow it isn't really that big a deal to give the counter one more wipe.
Cleaning up the messes
Just because there is a beautiful side to the mess, doesn't mean that I want to encourage my children to make messes. Truly, they should learn to be responsible. I don't want to simply smile at the messes as I clean up a trail of debris without training these young ones.
Carelessness when you are eight looks different than carelessness when you are 17 and driving the family vehicle. It is important to teach and train our young ones to be diligent and responsible.
However our response to the messes of life is also important. Which side of the mess do I focus on? Do I demonstrate praise for the gifts of life, or do I focus on the nasty?
There are many messes in life. Things we do not desire and things beyond our control. What is our response? There is poverty, hunger, and illness. Marriages collapse and families are scattered. I look and hurt and I cannot see a flip side of beauty. My heart breaks and I feel helpless and hopeless. And it is in this state that I can find the only beauty that there might possibly be in these huge 'beyond our control' problems.
It is into these messes that God is the only one able to work at all. Into these messes He speaks words of comfort and beauty. Within the messes He is doing things I can't see. He works in the hearts and minds of the hurting. He brings peace to the ill, He binds the hearts of the broken-hearted, He gives rest to the desperately weary ones.
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3: 19 - 26
I cannot fix all the messes of the world, but I know One who can and He is at work and sometimes He uses us to be hands and feet and He shows us things to do. Kindnesses we can share. The mess is still there, but there is a bit of beauty, a smile of thanks, a heart encouraged, a knowledge that God is present in this world and working in hearts to bring beauty and healing to individuals.
I heard of a man who is in a wheelchair in a nursing home near our house, who is enjoying watching my children play at the park. It brings him pleasure to hear them laughing and calling to one another. He enjoys seeing them run and jump and chase each other. They bring beauty to his life and they don't even know it. They come home dirty and grass stained. They make more work for me with their playing. Two sides to the mess. What will my response be? Will I praise God for healthy, running boisterous children who bring joy to the hearts of the lonely, shut in people or will I scrub and grumble that these kids really ought to be more careful?
The choice is always there. God has told us the proper response.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18
Nothing is beyond hope. No mess is too big for God. The potential for beauty in the mess is always there because God is the One who is at work in ALL of life's messes.
So jam on the carpet, sticky messes in the kitchen, dirt in the garage and the tragedies of life can all be faced in the same way. Kneeling before God, thanking Him for the gifts He has given and trusting Him to work in all circumstances to make all things beautiful in His time.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Ecclesiastes 3:11