Free to Be a Mess {#31 Days}

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes.” ~John 9.5

Hi, my name is Brenda and I am a perfectionist.

I like things clean and tidied up. A place for everything and everything in its place. Avoid the vulnerable. Hide the messes. These, my friends, are my sanity maxims.

In effect, I am the one who strives to live the edited life. Problem is, this life is a 4 x 4 cell of bondage. An edited life knows no freedom.

I remember well my senior year of high school in which I had enrolled in an advanced placement writing class. The first week of class we were assigned an essay, naturally. So far, exactly what I expected. I wrote my usual stuff, casually flung it into the teacher’s inbox and imagined the beautiful ‘A’ accompanied by glowing affirmations his felt pen would scrawl across the top of my effortless masterpiece.

The day he returned the papers to us, he did it in a most unconventional way. He had a conference with each student, where he would hand them their paper and provide feedback, line by {excruciating} line. I remember sitting in the classroom quietly reading while the other students were called out for their conference. Each returning somber. I figured this must mean he was saving the easy ones, the ones who didn’t really need much coaching, for the end. Finally he called my name.

As he held my paper in his hands, I don’t even remember what he was saying to me. Cue Charlie Brown’s teacher. All I could hear were the screeches of is the red ink covering every visible centimeter of my paper. Slashes, dashes, and circles of correction. I scanned to make sure he had my paper–maybe he mistook someone’s bad paper for mine. Alas, he had not. He was not impressed with my writing skills in any small measure. He said I needed a lot of help.

I remember to this day the sting I felt sitting there as I listened to his critique. I recall the strength it took to hold back the tears, but I knew it must be done. That much red felt marker combined with a flash flood of tears could only wash others into my river of shame. It was a vulnerable and messy moment.

It felt a lot like spit and mud. I was vulnerable to the heavy weight of another’s judgment mixed with the dust of my own humanity. This teacher, he saw my writing–this portion of me–better than I saw myself. He saw it wasn’t real–it wasn’t messy enough with the playing in the water and dirt that grows good stories.

Without water, dirt can be easily and quickly dusted off, swept away before anyone sees. But mud–it cakes on, sinks in, embeds itself. Mud is resiliently messy. There’s no mistaking that only a long and thorough washing is needed.

Life, like writing, needs spit and mud to grow good stories. In the spit and mud of Jesus we  have our eyes opened to seeing ourselves as he sees us–messy and needing help, yet loved. There is freedom from the blindness of perfection. Jesus welcomes us to the honest, unedited life–it’s the spit and the mud, after all, that sends us washing and gives us a really good story to tell.

Friend, I know everything in our world today will tell you to clean yourself up, make yourself presentable, get a grip. Pride and its sister, strength, will call you to hold your chin high and pretend like there is no spit or mud. Don’t listen to them. They will take you captive. Instead, listen to the voice of Jesus. He is calling you to the vulnerable life, the one that is messy. He does not need your perfection. Jesus says you are free to be a mess. He does his best work with mud and spit. The first man made from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2.7) and the renewed man shaped from mud made with Living Water.

Be free today–Free indeed!

This month I’m participating with The Nester in her 31 Days challenge to write every day on a topic of choice. I’m writing this month on how Jesus make us free.

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