Life’s Messy Moments
Login or Create an Account
With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!
What to remember when you find yourself in one of life’s messes.
Messes are usually more effectively taken care of when cleaned up right away!
I was fortunate to have an amazing set of grandparents, both of whom loved me deeply and in part helped shape who I am today. During most of my life, we were separated by thousands of miles, except for the occasions where my sister and I would move in with them for a time; my grandparents always had an open-door policy. Whether we were visiting during summer vacation, or just showed up during one of life’s messier moments (when divorce or loss of job struck our family), the door was always wide open.
It was in their home that I first remember trying my hand at baking. I was 6 at the time, and I wanted to make cookies. Fortunately my grandfather had a sweet tooth and encouraged this budding interest. My grandmother, in anticipation of what was to come—and to protect the wall-to-wall carpet in her kitchen—brought out the rolls of heavy plastic and proceeded to cover the entire kitchen floor.
Soon I was standing on a three-step ladder, donning an apron. The flour started flying. While I loved to bake, I was a terribly messy baker. And despite my best efforts, equal amounts of flour made it to both the floor and bowl. Soon the mixer was spattering batter throughout the kitchen in a shotgun pattern.
Several hours later I remember proudly sharing my misshapen cookies with my grandfather and attempting to help my grandmother clean up the mess. Loving grandmother that she was, she eventually shooed me away to take care of the final touches by herself.
In my younger days, the messes I made could be minimized or cleaned up rather easily with heavy rolls of plastic, a good vacuum, a kitchen rag, a sink full of suds, and the helping hands of somebody who loved me. But life never stays that simple. As I grew up, cleaning the messes I made were much more complicated; no longer just flour on a kitchen floor. Sometimes I would make a mess out of things simply because I didn’t know what I was doing. At other times though, the messes were created as a result of my own shortcomings and sins—or the shortcomings and sins of others.
When it comes to those types of messes in life—the broken relationships, the unexpected pregnancy, the heartache you’ve caused the one you love the most, fill in your own life’s experiences—cleaning them up involves many of the same techniques we employed that day in my grandmother’s kitchen.
God’s Word protects my heart
Instead of using heavy plastic to protect the carpeting, it’s God’s Word and instruction that protect my heart. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 Proverbs 3:5-65 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version). When I neglect spending time in God’s Word, I risk leaving parts of my life exposed and vulnerable.
And it’s God’s Word and instruction that give me the proper perspective to face and respond to life’s most challenging situations. When things are at their worst, it is comforting to read of similar—or even worse—challenges faced by people before me. How they overcame them with God’s help—or didn’t—can bring my perspective outside of myself and give me ideas for what to do (or not to do).
A vacuum is helpful for cleaning up the small particles we often overlook or cannot see
Cleaning up in my grandmother’s kitchen, there came a certain point that we needed to clean up the carpet where it hadn’t been perfectly protected by the plastic—out came the vacuum. It found and removed the small remnants of my cookie disaster that I wouldn’t have been able to even see.
God does that for us when we find ourselves in a messy place. And we should ask Him to do so. David wrote, “O, Lord you have searched me and you know me” (Psalm 139). It’s difficult to ask for our flaws to be revealed to us. It’s even more challenging to change who we are, instead of dismissing the mess we need to clean up by telling ourselves, “that’s just who I am.” Just as rooms left un-vacuumed smell stale and musty, so it is when we ignore our ugly bits.
The sooner you start cleaning up your mess, the easier it is
Messes are usually more effectively taken care of when cleaned up right away! It’s much easier to clean up soft cookie dough that’s splattered on kitchen cabinets rather than waiting until it’s hardened and caked onto the surface. The sooner I can work up the courage to address the messy areas in my life—whether it be to have those difficult conversations, or take the first step toward admitting I need help—that’s when the easiest cleaning can really begin. Ignoring problems do not make them go away; typically it just makes them much more complicated.
Cleaning jobs are most effective when the task is shared. Just as my grandmother did the heavy lifting in the kitchen when I was 6, so did others walk alongside me and help me pick up the pieces of me life when everything was out of order. We all need those helping hands along the way—somebody who will make the load seem even a tad lighter (Ecclesiastes 4:12 Ecclesiastes 4:12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
American King James Version×). A comforting verse, which says that God will intercede for me when I can’t do it for myself, is in Romans 8:26 Romans 8:26Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
American King James Version×: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” In those times, I feel like He is shooing me out of the kitchen and saying, “I’ve got this.”
Once a mess is cleaned up, then it’s time to ask myself: Do I leave this mess behind me? Or do I allow it to define my life going forward? When somebody else makes a mess of their own life, do I allow them to move past the difficulties they’ve faced and mature? Or do I hold it over their head, never allowing them room to grow?
God is willing to put our past sins behind us and help us when we do our part. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×). I find comfort in knowing that in the end, if we continually seek God, it’s not the messy areas of our life that will define us; it will be God’s work within us which truly shapes us.