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A Messy Life

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Aug 16 in Musings
Was it in my business years, trying to futilely juggle being a dad, husband, church elder, businessperson, family member and friend? Or was it in my first year of ministry, listening to someone pour out a heartbreaking situation in their life, and realizing there was nothing I could do to fix it?  At some point, I realized life is messy. It just is. I suspect you are like me. I have spent a great deal of effort trying to perfectly balance my time, clean-up messes, control outcomes and fix people- or at least improve them.
The well-ordered life has long been part of utopian dreams. We want our lives to resemble an immaculately organized garage. But the truth is- life is messy. And when we choose to follow Jesus, it gets even messier.  The author Frederick Buechner once said it like this: “...when God puts the finger on people, their troubles have just begun.”

 This is, of course, the opposite of what the positive-thinking gurus and prosperity preachers advocate and teach.  We have all heard some version of “If you just give your life to Jesus, all your problems will disappear.”  But I think Buechner is spot-on. Once God enters the equation, all bets are off.  Following Jesus usually makes things more complicated, not less. Why?
-When we put our trust in Jesus, it means we say “Yes” to following him. We submit to his plan, his wisdom and leading. Sometimes this means going against our inclinations. Other times it means moving ahead without a clear picture of the whole road map. Trust involves acknowledging some mystery- we walk by faith, not by sight.
-When we put our trust in Jesus, we give up control. That means the goal is not to seek our own comfort and happiness so much as to live a God-shaped life. Building walls around our lives, isolating from people different than us, taking care of ourselves first...these methods of control are out of bounds.
-When we put our trust in Jesus, we are embracing a different definition of success. It isn’t my search for happiness or material comfort or status that is of ultimate importance. Success in Jesus’ eyes seems to have much more to do with character, integrity and giving our lives to others. Here’s another Buechner nugget: “...there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”  Identifying the “you” in that sentence constantly surprises us.
It really is something of a paradox, isn’t it?  Having everything neat and clean means being in control and not taking risks- the very things that are antithetical to the Gospel. As soon as we give up control, accept risks and engage with others- we encounter difficult people and find ourselves in situations we cannot fix. It gets messy.
There are many, many benefits to following Jesus- growth, fulfillment, joy, depth, companionship and ultimately, of course, eternity. But an orderly, mess-free life? That’s not part of the package.
See you soon,
              Pastor Dan

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