Monday, July 8, 2013

Muddling Through Life’s Messes

In college I learned a new word: Prerequisite. It meant you had to take certain courses before you could take more advanced ones. For instance, I couldn’t take Journalism 312 before I’d taken Journalism 205. Before you took American Literature 210, you had to take freshman English 101.

Life’s like that, too. There are prerequisites for advancing to the next stage of development. Learning to walk before you run, for instance. Being taught to print before you write in cursive. (Although printing these days has become just a prerequisite for texting.)

Another prerequisite of everyday living, it seems, is that you have to endure messes to achieve masterpieces.

The construction mess prepares for future grandeur.
Our local mall, for example, is more than 30 years old and the new owner is doing major renovations. Construction is underway, so things are messy. But for all the shopkeepers and shoppers, putting up with the present mess will be worth it when the work is finished, resulting in a bright, better-than-new retail center.

As every parent knows, the euphoria of a infant’s birth is quickly followed by…messes. Dirty diapers, spit-up, baby food everywhere but in the mouth. But parents also will tell you the messes are worthwhile. Because they’ve envisioned what their baby will become in childhood and eventually, adulthood.

After living in the same house for many years, my wife and I have undertaken a number of remodeling and fix-up projects. Remodeled kitchen and bathrooms, landscaping, painting, wallpaper, and a new roof. Since I operate out of a home office, such undertakings cause an annoyance – even though I’m not the one doing most of the work. But in the end, disturbances and minor aggravation are worth enduring.

The same holds true spiritually. In fact, the Bible states, Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox” (Proverbs 14:4). Stated another way, you won’t get any milk unless you’re willing to put up with manure.

Like buildings undergoing
renovation, our lives also
are "under construction."
If anyone’s ever told you the so-called “Christian life” is easy, he or she lied. Because (spoiler alert) it’s not. We’re told to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3).

In case we’ve missed that passage, James 1:2-4 reiterates, “Consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Even when we’re doing what we should, God sometimes sees fit to “mess” with us so we’ll become even more productive. Jesus said, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2).

Looking over the course of my life, even after committing my life to Christ, I see lots of messes. Some of my own making, some that the Lord allowed simply because “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). From His perspective, I’ve been “under construction.”

So the next time you look around your life and find a mess, take heart. It’s not easy, convenient or fun. But somewhere in the midst of the mess, God is creating a masterpiece.

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