I need to apologize as this is going to be a little gross. After working with middle school students for several years, I have become totally unphased by “poop” stories. Not a youth group hour goes by where some middle schooler doesn’t crack a joke about poop, toilets, farts, you name it. For some reason that is the universal language of middle school students, and for some reason it’s funny, really funny. Although I have not come to see the humor in it, I have found myself engaging in it a time or two. So again, I apologize. This is about to poop. Like most dog owners, I often head to the backyard to pick up after my dog. Unlike some people’s well trained fury friends, my dog does not use the same place every day. In fact, it’s a little like a scavenger hunt, I have to search the whole backyard for whatever he has left me. Sometimes it’s behind the shed, sometimes it’s in the corner by the gate, and sometimes it’s right out in the open. No matter where it is, I have to walk through the grass, scanning left to right, making sure I don’t step in it first. The joys of having a dog!
Here’s what I have learned. Years and years and years after having a dog, I have discovered that no matter how hard I search, it seems that I always step in the mess before I actually find it. No matter how diligent my eyes may be scanning and no matter how studious I feel, I seem to find myself standing right in the pile before I was able to avoid it. I’ve come to realize this may be a metaphor for my life. No matter how hard I try to avoid stepping into the mess, I often find myself having landed right in the middle of it. I try diligently, work furiously, and plan carefully so I might avoid it. But somehow, inevitably I find myself standing in it first, and then I am forced to deal with it. And you know what else I’ve discovered? Life is messy. Very messy. And unlike my backyard, we don’t have to look very hard to find the mess. But no matter how hard we try, or how diligent our efforts are and no matter what things we’re doing to avoid it, we often find ourselves standing in it. It seems as though the mess finds us first.
Or is it maybe that we have to step into the mess to find it after all? Could it be that actually stepping into discomfort, pain, or frustration is exactly how we identify those areas. Could that possibly be the first critical step of dealing with the messes in our life? I would really like to think I can avoid it. If it’s unavoidable, I would like to think I can work my way around it. Maybe I can clean things up before I get there. But that’s not always how life works. Oftentimes we have to get into the mess, get into that space, so that we can begin to clean things up. I am so thankful that Jesus chose to do just that. He chose to enter a messy world and stand in the middle of that mess with us. I’m so thankful He chose to step into the center of my mess too. He does not try to avoid it, He does not try to fix it, or plan around it. He just gets in the middle of it. By stepping into the middle of my stuff, he is then able to truly find me there. And no matter how broken, weary, or frustrated I may be, Jesus continues to step into that space and stand in it with me. Joshua 1:5 says “I will be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” So no matter how messy it gets, I’m glad to know the One who stands in it with me.