Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I awoke this morning thinking, for some reason, about messiness. Perhaps I had this on my mind because our house is a bit messy at the moment. Well, actually it’s always messier than I would prefer it and I have been learning over the years to not worry so much about that. I like to have my world neat and tidy. This includes my physical world and my mental, emotional and spiritual worlds. But as I thought about this I realized that life is messy. Rarely does life cooperate and arrange itself in a nice, orderly manner with no loose ends and unresolved issues.

I’d like faith to be neat and tidy. We often pretend that it is. We write and read books about God that describe him in clear, definite terms, without fuzziness and ambiguity. And by our efforts to describe God we attempt to tame him. But, as C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “he is not a tame lion.” And faith is not a simple thing, all neat and tidy, wrapped up and packaged as a pleasant complete kit that I can purchase off the shelf in my local church or Christian bookstore. Faith is messy. God doesn’t deliver when I want or expect him to. He doesn’t always act as I believe he should. While Jesus Christ may be the same yesterday, today and forever (a statement I would affirm, for those who may doubt), his manner of displaying his personal consistency is remarkably variable. I long for certainty, but in my search for answers I often find only more questions. I envy those for whom faith is a settled, certain thing. For me it is a journey, a quest. I believe, but even after all these years of walking with God I am still seeking, trying to understand and make some sense of this messy thing called the life of faith. I don’t have all the answers. And I don’t have to.

But this morning I realized that messiness is okay, even in matters of faith. Just as I can learn to live without having my living room neat and tidy, I can live with having a faith that still wrestles with questions and even doubts. In fact, such a faith may enable me to flex with the changing context in which I live. My faith, because it is not rigid, does not crumble if one item becomes weak or questioned. This does not mean that there is no foundation to my faith. There is. Faith cannot be just anything I want it to be. I have an object of my faith—Jesus Christ the crucified and risen one. Other elements form the core of my faith as well. But there remains a lot of messiness to it—like a workshop in which a project is on-going. Sometime, at the end of the project, it will all come together into a beautiful finished work of art. But for now it’s messy—and I’m learning to be okay with that.