Lately I’ve come to realize that I still struggle with something that I thought I had gotten past. It’s really frustrating, you know, because I thought I had it beat, that I had moved on, that I had finally stopped being a slave to it. I thought I had it all conquered, only to discover that it had been lurking in the small unnoticed corners subversively taking over inch by inch without me even knowing.
What is this struggle, you might ask?
It’s the belief that who I am, is just not good enough. This is a belief I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. It drove me to arms of addiction, it made me give up on a god who I thought demanded from me, and it made me think that who I was couldn’t touch anything without breaking it. As I’ve grown in my understanding of God and grace that belief slowly faded as my inadequacy was replaced by the beautiful story of the cross.
And I thought my “Not Enough” was defeated.
Then, over the past few months, I found myself having these thoughts again—these thoughts that convince me that who I am, just isn’t quite enough. These thoughts, they don’t come out as blatantly as they once did, no, now they come out in the form of comparing myself to others who seem to have life figured out. This comparison doesn’t make me dislike them or even want to be like them, it just makes me feel like maybe God made a mistake by calling me his disciple.
As I’ve become aware of the reappearance of this struggle, I’ve come the conclusion that maybe the problem isn’t my messiness. Maybe the problem is that I don’t think God sees beauty in my mess. See, I’ve developed this really screwed up way of thinking that’s made me believe that God is this like clean cut, top button collar, kind of god who expects me to clean myself up before I can really be useful.
I know that sounds really odd and contrary to all that I teach about who God is and you might be wondering how I can even believe that when I know how unlike God that belief is. Sometimes the belief is so subtle… I just don’t even notice it until I’ve let myself be defined by it and I blame others for calling me names when really it was me all along. I’ve been sabotaged by my own hopes at holiness.
I’ve grown up in church my whole life, you know, and it’s created this skewed way of thinking that I default back to in my complacency. This way of thinking that we have to have it all together, that God expects that of us. We may not even ever say those words out loud but think about the environment of the church today. We dress up and come to our church buildings and we smile and shake hands with the people around us. We shuffle across new carpet that we can’t bring drinks onto and we listen to our pastor preach a sermon filled with big words and eloquent metaphors. We get caught up in the ritual and it ceases to be real. Sometimes eloquence gets in the way, sometimes getting everything right means getting it wrong, Sometimes life with Jesus is about a messy, broken, and radically authentic life.
That’s the beauty of Jesus really; he shows us a God with dust on his feet and callouses on his hands who cares more about showing prostitutes their worth than talking to the religious about their holiness. Jesus uses mud to do miracles and then bends down to wash the feet of his followers. He was called a heretic and a party animal because he hung out with the riff raff made scandalous statements that declared they were who would fill the kingdom of God. No wonder the religious hated him, they expected a God in white robes and clean hands and instead they got dusty sandals and dirty fingernails.
How often I do the same thing. I expect him to find my messiness repulsive and forget that he saw beauty to be breathed into dust. I don’t know, I guess I just think that maybe all the big fancy words and all the well put together sermons, they drive people away because the reality of life is grungy and in church we worry about stains on our carpet. Maybe we should be a little more like God and see the beauty in dust and the healing power of being a little muddy.
For me, that starts with believing that my mess is enough for him. Actually, maybe it starts with believing that my mess is beautiful to him. After all, maybe I’m just another one of his muddy miracles, and how gloriously beautiful is that?