I had a baby one year ago this week. I’m beginning to think my house will never be truly clean again. From the puddles of blocks and books in the living room to the mystery substances on the backside of cabinets in the kitchen, there seem to be messes everywhere I look. At least I’ve taught my teenager to confine his messes to his bedroom. Most of the time. Well, some of the time.
Somewhere along the way I seem to have decided that life is too short to make my bed. Who is this new self? She is mysteriously more comfortable with messiness.
You know, it’s not just the rooms of our house that are messy. The spaces in our hearts are messy too. Maybe you can relate. We argue and say regrettable things to each other. We miss opportunities to recognize each other’s needs. We hide from each other. We let our personal messes bubble over until we see them pouring out of our own kids’ lives. Maybe there is brokenness and separation and mistakes within your family that you’ve kept shamefully private. Maybe your family doesn’t look like the family you wanted when you were a kid playing house.
It’s so tempting to pretend that your family is tidy and uncontaminated. But a messy family is what happens when everyone stops pretending.
When we stop pretending, our teens can come to us honestly with the messes in their hearts instead of keeping them confined to their rooms. We find out that other parents feel the same crippling anxiety as we do. Our kids can mess up without fearing the loss of our love. We can laugh more about things that don’t matter and get more serious about the things that do. We can fight for each other instead of with each other.
When we stop pretending, we can experience confession, forgiveness, and messy grace. First from our family. Then maybe from ourselves. And always from God.
I have become more comfortable with my messy family. I don’t mean becoming numb to sin or complacent about improvement. I mean finding the courage to say to each other, “You’re a mess. And I am too.” Then letting the messy grace of God make us clean as only it can.