I wrote an Advent devotional once before. I still remember the feeling as my fingers flew over the keyboard. It was pages of some of the finest writing I’d ever done; heart and soul left on the page. I was so confident God was in it, that when the feedback came, it took me a beat for to understand what I was hearing.
His words echoed in my mind all day long, until they finally solidified into a simple fear and a question that haunted me for little while too long: Oh shit. Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks this whole think is kind of a cluster?
That terrifying possibility sent me scrambling. It kept me insecure and defensive for far too long, until, in the dark days of grieving disappointment in my own life, that fear finally gave birth to a new thought: maybe everyone doesn’t think this life is a mess – but, shouldn’t they?
Because isn’t this life terribly messy? Isn’t it troubling to wake up lying beside a person who you once loved with all of your soul and feel the horrific reality that you’re annoyed by the sound of their breathing? Isn’t it sad to live your days longing for a vacation from your life, because it feels like peace and joy and happiness is found outside of it? Isn’t it confusing that you can feel such joy and such delight in a moment and it be washed away with the anxiety of the ping of work email? Isn’t it annoying that you can intend to love your family so well, and still find yourself being snappy and short with them? Isn’t it broken that babies will die tonight of hunger and that mothers will watch them and that people will be judged for the color of their skin?
Isn’t it just slightly ‘depressing’ that not a single person reading this is living the life they dreamed of, and if they are, give it a few years and death or sin will steal from them a person or a plan that they cannot live without?
I think back to that Advent devotional and I wonder if I didn’t have an advantage on that man who gave me that feedback, as I typed out those truths with tears. I had the advantage of living in a messy story; of waking up in a world and a reality that was never what I planned.
I had the advantage of learning the single truth that has changed my life more than any other with the exception of the Gospel: that messy is not the enemy of the miraculous. That God is not found on the other side of pain or loss or disappointment or boredom, but He instead, dwells directly in the middle of it.
Everything about how Advent reminds us – this isn’t it. This life isn’t it. The faith filled don’t have to make their homes here. Oh what contentment there is in embracing the messy tension of this life.
Here is what I know now – all of life is messy. It really is. But it’s only the healthy that notice that. And what a gift it is – to not just noice that – but receive it. Not to call it good, but to accept it as the conditions of this strange wasteland we are living in, because – as the Advent story teaches us – Jesus is found in the messiness.
Messy is not the enemy of the miraculous. Pain is not the enemy of joy and disappointment is not the enemy of thankfulness. If life feels messy, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong; in fact.- feeling the messiness means that you are a doing – it right in a broken world. God forbid we become used to – or even satisfied – with a world that is such a shattered distortion of the one for which we were made.
This Advent devotional – I cannot imagine it will be like the one I wrote before. So much has happened and changed since then. I know this – the power of God cannot be harnessed, and I will never forget the confidence that He was with me in those words before. I don’t know if it will be the same now – because God doesn’t work for me.
But I know this Advent devotional will be a love letter. It will be a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the God who has taught me a glorious truth that has set me free to embrace the messy.
The devo will start tomorrow, and you can’ get it in your inbox by signing up here.