My life is messy.
Big shock, I know. I’m sure your life is all neat and tidy and functioning in perfect order (wink, wink), but mine isn’t. Not even close. In fact, I’ve often remarked that I don’t do life particularly well. It’s a recurring problem. I guess we’ve all got our stuff.
I wrote a post a few weeks back (read it here) that gave a pretty transparent glimpse into my inner world. I knew God was on it when I wrote it but because it was so deeply personal, I was surprised by how many others seemed to relate. That particular post got more shares and traffic, by a long shot, than anything I’ve ever written. One of the main points of the piece (aside from the fact that Jesus is glorious, which is the main point of everything I write) is that there are those of us “out there” who are wired in a such a way that we function substantially better in the unseen world than we do in the one that is seen. That is an absolutely marvelous spiritual reality, but when it comes to successfully navigating day-to-day life, well, it’s not quite so helpful. As a result, many of us live fairly messy and misunderstood lives.
But into all of our messy lives entered the marvelously messy reality of the incarnation.
I love the fact that when God invaded the earth in human form, it was messy. When I read the Christmas story, it isn’t the flashy angel light show that gets to me. It isn’t the supernatural encounters that led to His conception and birth. It isn’t the fulfilled prophecy, or the worship, or the magi and their gifts. No, what really gets to me is simple:
It’s the mess.
It’s the fact that Mary and Joseph were misjudged and misunderstood. Though Mary was literally carrying the presence of God, they encountered nothing but closed doors and closed hearts.
It’s the fact that the King of Glory Himself was born in a smelly cave in the middle of nowhere.
It’s the fact that all the “action” happened in the dead of night far away from the clamor of the crowds.
It’s the fact that only a few–mostly those overlooked by society–were able to see past the messy circumstances and into the true glory of the moment.
It’s the fact that it wasn’t how any of us would have assumed a “successful” appearing of the Messiah should occur.
Yet that is how it happened. And it was glorious.
It was a glorious mess.
These days, we pretty it up in our minds. We omit the mess from our beautiful nativity displays. But try to imagine it as it actually was. Try to see it from Mary and Joseph’s perspective.
Try to see it in the light of your own messy circumstances.
You see, sometimes a mess isn’t the absence of God’s presence, sometimes it is the result of His presence.
Sometimes closed doors don’t mean you’re on the wrong track, sometimes they mean you’re on the right one.
Sometimes stinky surroundings don’t mean you’ve missed God’s plan, sometimes the stench is actually the fragrance of a surrendered life.
Sometimes the biggest miracles happen quietly in the darkest hour of the longest night.
Sometimes only God–and those who choose to look through His eyes–see the glory hidden within the mess.
Sometimes a mess means you are exactly where you need to be, and that you are doing exactly what you need to be doing.
Sometimes the mess is glorious.
This Christmas–no matter how things look on the outside–I pray you will see with His eyes. As you do, I pray you will find lasting hope in the wonder and beauty of a messy manger. Because when your messy life meets the glorious reality of a messy manger…
You may find your life isn’t quite so messy and misunderstood after all.