Mess, Dirt, and Finding Beauty

 
Creativity is intelligence having fun..jpg
 

As Andy Williams once sang, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Our homes are decorated, there are gifts under the tree, our kids are wearing cute outfits, families are coming together, feasts are being prepared, cookies are being baked, and festive drinks are flowing. We spend hours, days, weeks, and even months planning and prepping to make this season the best it can be. We create family traditions and soak up every moment of festive joy. 

But in the beauty of this season, it's all too easy to get caught up in the culture of “perfect”. Or maybe it’s just me, but as I strive to carve out unforgettable family memories, I easily stress over the smallest oversight I may have made. I chastise myself for blemishes in my flawless plans and panic if Christmas doesn’t look like what I want or expected.  

And can’t help feel that I am alone in this. When I talk to friends, when I look on Instagram, everyone seems to be swept up in the festivities. Instead of the season of peace and goodwill it seems like the season of stress, anxiety, and striving.

As a Christian, I believe that this is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. In the middle of a broken world, the Son of God came to earth as a baby. Majesty, beauty and perfection left the heavens and became Man. 

 And His birth was far from what we would ever have expected.  Luke 2:11-12 says, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 

Christ the Lord, the Savior, would be found in a manger. A manger is not a crib or a snazzy baby swing, but a structure used to feed animals. It’s something that you add to your Target or Pottery Barn baby registry, lest give to the Son of God!!! But that is where you would have found Jesus. Beauty, Majesty, and Perfection was inside a dark, dirty, messy animal shelter, not a palace or fancy birthing center. 

This blows my mind and challenges the heck out of me, because I don’t want my life to be messy. I want the perfect Christmas with the clean house, the well-behaved kids, and a plethora of presents. I want a home where people come and there’s always food and laughter. I want my life to look like a Hallmark movie, not like the nativity! I don't want to be surrounded by lack. I want beauty. I want plenty. I want perfection. 

Most people would have missed the birth of Jesus. Most people would have expected a palace, top physicians, and most definitely a clean nursery for the newborn king. But the magi and shepherds were looking for something different. They saw through the mess, the dirt, and the mundane.

I want to be like the magi and shepherds. I want to find something Divine even in the imperfections of life. I want to look past what I expect so I can encounter something priceless.

And maybe something so profound is actually happening, but we are fixated on our own version of the palace that we miss it. Maybe we can find beauty in our hearts and homes, no matter how hard we have planned, scrimped, and saved. Maybe we can embrace a glorious reality despite our expectations not being met. 

So this Christmas, let us remember that the King of kings, the ultimate power, authority, and Creator was found in mess. And if that’s good enough for God, perhaps it should be good enough for us too? 

The Real You

We live in a world where words like “authentic” and “transparent” have become oh, so popular. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I remember power-suits, flashy cars, and huge mobile phones being the status symbols that demanded respect. But these have been traded in, and now we admire the celebrity who confesses weakness. We distrust politicians who have never shown their imperfections, and we value counselors and therapists as much as regular MDs.  

We are hungry for connection. We are crying out for real relationship where there is no transactional exchange, only heart-to-heart communication. We are aching to find a safe place to rest our souls where we are seen, heard, and known.

We are craving love. 

But despite craving love, despite craving authentic, transparent relationships, we still fear people seeing the real us.  And when I mean the real us, I am not just talking about our emotions or likes and dislikes. I am talking about the ‘us ‘that doesn’t quite have it all together. I am referring to the  ‘us’ that lives with older cars, ill-fitting clothes, or a home that is certainly not Pinteresty.

As I mentioned last week, Brene Brown talks about “scarcity” and how we are wired in our culture to be hyperaware of lack, rather than success or plenty. So we look at our homes, and we see what we need to buy in order to make our houses ‘perfect’. Then we look at our cars that don’t have a Bluetooth phone connection and we want to upgrade. Then we look in our closets and we decide to forsake our boots from last winter and buy the new sassy ones we saw in Nordstrom. 

But fixating on our material possessions means we are missing the mark. In our authentic and transparent world, we are truly hungering for something deeper than the latest farmhouse table or a 2019 Honda Odyssey (I am about to be a mum of 3. Yes. I dream of a mini-van!!!) 

And this is not just limited to our material possessions. We treat our own spiritual giftings and anointings in the same way. Instead of sharing honestly about our weaknesses, we like to show people that we are eloquent speakers, musicians, or leaders. We like to inform people that God has gifted us and therefore, they should listen. It’s as though our accomplishments, as well as our possessions, give us authority, worth, and significance.

But the Bible says something quite different. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul explains that, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV, emphasis mine)

So basically, no matter how talented you are, no matter how well you can hear God, or how amazingly you move in powerful miracles, IF YOU DO NOT LOVE, YOU ARE NOTHING. If you have a massive house, a brand-new car, and a closet full of gorgeous clothes, but you don’t love, you are nothing. If you have the ‘perfect’ life, but loving people is not your thing, you are nothing but a loud, annoying cymbal.

So what is love? Love is taking off the mask of perfection and inviting people to gather around your table. Love is letting go of your fixation with your lack and allowing people close, even if they see the dirt on your kitchen cabinets. Love is saying, “You are worth the real me, not the fake, plastic version of myself”. That is love. 

Just as Paul wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”. (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV, emphasis mine) 

So today, embrace your life. Whether you are rich or poor, leading in your dream career or following a boss in a dead-end job, may you love those around you. Don’t boast, don’t be proud, don’t seek to look perfect - just love. Take off the mask, let people see your home with the broken chairs, let people come close. Because people don’t want plastic, they want you, the real you.