One chilly weekend earlier this year, my roommates and I had all of our parents over for dinner at our house. It was a combination of all of my very favorite things: People + warm food + table + s p a c e to be together.
We put the ingredients for chicken tortilla soup in the crock pot before church and popped cornbread and cookies in the oven just before everyone arrived. We lit candles on the mantle and set out the tablecloth and pulled out extra chairs.
And then, right on time, I ran to the doorbell and peeked out our front window to see our parents standing on the doorstep, flowers and gifts in hand. They walked in carrying coats and twinges of the chilly air.
Before long, the house was totally full of voices. Our chip bowls disappeared at an alarming pace, guacamole and salsa flying as we scooped. We pulled nine chairs up to our table meant for six, elbows rubbing as we dug into our soup.
It’s strange, really. A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined a night like we had.
A few years ago, I predicted a cool, sophisticated version of my post-college self, working a big-girl job and wearing suit jackets, going out for margaritas with friends every night and having parents over for a candle-lit dinner on Pottery Barn plates.
And now I’m here. And my real life is a little messier. But it’s better, too.
I do commute downtown for my big-girl job, and it is fun and interesting and feels all grown-up to me. But, most days, I just wear jeans (and the very occasional suit jacket) and I grab coffee with my coworkers and I wade through piles and piles of emails and media lists. It is equal parts interesting & challenging.
I do have a super-fun group of close friends in my life, and they are my most treasured gift in this season by far. And yes, sometimes we go out for margaritas and buckets and buckets of chips and salsa. But sometimes, we go to bed early on Friday nights and work through hard things and hurt each others’ feelings. This is a messier but altogether more beautiful picture of friendship than I never could have painted.
And, yes, I had my parents over for dinner that weekend. But it wasn’t super fancy. We didn’t dust or vacuum (there are only so many hours in the day). It took us a while to get the TV’s bunny ears to work (yep, we’ve got those). Our dishes didn’t match, nor were they from Pottery Barn. But we laughed and spilled salsa and popped a bottle of champagne to toast the Denver Broncos’ trip to Super Bowl 50. We laughed and told stories and figured out, once again, just how small our world is. At the end of the night, our dishwasher and our bellies were full.Life in its messiness can’t compete with that picture-perfect plan I create. I’m learning to be cool with my messy life. My really, really good, messy life.
I’m more than cool with a messy dinner party around a messy table sprinkled with chip crumbs. I’m learning to be cool with my messy emotions and imperfect schedule. I’m learning to be cool with messy conflict that leads to growth and healing and change.
Around the time of that dinner party, a friend and I were reading through the book of Genesis – a celebration and marking of beginnings in many ways. The book is full of births, celebrations, the start of God’s family tree, and the start of all of our family trees, really.
But have you ever read the book of Genesis? It. Is. Messy.
Deception. Running. Hiding. Family feuding. Slavery. Imprisonment. Fear. Falls. These are only some of the themes that thread themselves through these ancient, dusty, war-torn stories that stretch miles across the desert.
We read about Joseph – the boy who was sold into slavery by his envious older brothers, only to become a trusted officer in the Egyptian guard. We read about Tamar sleeping with her father-in-law in order to extend their family line – the line that would turn out to be the family line of Jesus. We read about the heartbreaking, competitive battles between Rachel and Leah, clamoring for the attention and affection of the same husband. We read about the tragic darkness that seemed to follow Jacob, Esau and their family like a shadow.
We read about the passing of both ordinary and extraordinary days, when God was steadfastly keeping His covenant with His people. Messy, imperfect people.
What God is showing me in these stories is that His purpose isn’t intimidated by my mess. He is showing me that He is gracious to continually give us purpose and good work, and that he doesn’t disqualify His people because their mess is too great.
Seemingly isolated incidents – hard, weird, painful, confusing incidents – salsa stains and ordinary evenings and hard conversations – are stitching together a greater story of redemption.
The mess isn’t exempt from the redemption story. The mess makes the redemption story.
And my life is the same way. Your life is the same way. Mess. Mistakes. Mondays. Bad dreams. Hard lessons. Hard goodbyes. Start-overs.
God is using the stuff of our days, friends.
I remember washing our tablecloth after the parents dinner party that weekend, after the house was quiet and clean.
And I got to this sorta peaceful place, heart and soul.
I ran my hands over the salsa stains on the blue cloth, trying to remember every detail of the evening before I tossed the whole thing into the machine.
Man, I thought. A messy tablecloth is a sign of a good party.
Friends, I believe this to be true. About our tablecloths, and about our lives.
It’s not always what we thought, but it’s good. It’s imperfect sometimes, but it’s good.
It’s messy, but it’s good.