“I’m not cleaning up other people’s messes,” he said to me.
I had said the same thing in my heart and out loud countless times within the last 6 months in the gripe and complaint of my soul. I began thinking about this, and ways to persuade this person to complete a task. And there He spoke. As quickly as my thoughts were fluttering the Lord spoke right in step, “I did.” I realized he was speaking right into this situation.
I knew what he was saying, hundreds of things in just two simple words. The Lord is like that–he could speak one word and it have multifaceted meaning and you know exactly what he’s talking about, or if you’re unable to hear, sometimes you may not even realize he spoke to twenty things at once.
“I did,” he said, and I knew that he was speaking to me. I tried to divert the heat of his gaze, his words sweet and yet bitter with the sting of conviction. “I cleaned up you. I cleaned up your mess. I still clean up your messes.” He said this and this sweetness dripped from every word. It wasn’t harsh and corrective, looking for retribution, but sweet and corrective. I started tearing up, emotion bubbling beneath the surface anger I felt in the moment.
This is the One who has never done ANYTHING wrong, ever. There is not another being that can boast of such a feat. He’s never made a mess, first of all, and he’s never had to clean something up because of his mistakes or uncleanliness as a repercussion. Can you imagine living with a brother like Jesus (poor James, right!) who doesn’t make any mistakes or messes? All he would have around him is other people’s messes, things that were never his responsibility or fault. I think of how easily I become irritated and embittered times of doing and giving and not receiving in return. And there the bittersweet whisper of heart revealing words danced across my pain again. “Do it for me. Don’t do it for them. They can’t repay you, and that’s where the real payment is, I tell you.” He sung it to me, and bricks of resentment, entitlement, presumption founded on you-owe-me’s I’d calculated inwardly were dismantled.
If I’m doing it for repayment it’s not for love.
I thought about the two little girls I took under my wing while going to college in Kansas City. Their mom was in jail for drugs and a list of things. They had two different dads. One had dark skin and hazel eyes, the other a light-skinned red-haired and freckled child, both of matchless beauty, hand-crafted. Here a mess: no mom, no dad, and only a grandfather in his 80’s to care for two wild little girls. He would bring them in to the YMCA where I worked. They called me Mom while I lived there and spent the weekends at my little townhome. The faces of countless other children played as a slideshow in my mind’s eye. There they are–I see them now–a present day reality right now at this moment left in the mess that man made, in an uninvited mess that they weren’t responsible or accountable for creating.
And who would clean up the mess that man made once again? Jesus ultimately. It’s who he is and what he does. But until he returns, who has been charged to do good works and not grow tired of doing good? Oh hey, Church. Oh hey–gulp–me. But here I am–and if I am to look, think, and become as he is, cleaning up messes I don’t make is something that is inseparable from who He is and who he is wanting me to become. I better start learning, and his yoke is easy and burden light. Death to self is costly, uncomfortable, and in the daily and mundane more than the crazy and insane. Death to self is the only place to find joy. No thank you will satisfy the support and approval you’re looking for. Yeah, trust me on this one, I know.
Can this be part of my mission statement: Clean up messes I don’t make for the rest of my days. Don’t expect thank you’s–yeah, don’t do it for the thank you’s or that’s your only reward. Jesus cleaned up the mess for every single human being, the nasty rapist, murderer (of equal standing with me and you) –and most times we curse his name, literally, spit in his face, and don’t give thanks. But he treasures when even one does and his sacrifice is without repentance.
Jesus, I thank you for this mess. I get to be like you. I get to fellowship with you here in this mess. Thank you for letting me see into your heart and what you’re like through this.
And here I find gold.
I think about the messes I see and don’t want to clean up. After all, I didn’t make the mess, why should I have to clean it up? I felt so powerful in my anger and in a moment, remembering these little girls hit my ugly interior posture like a MAC truck. Is pride more powerful than love? No, nothing is more potent in power than love.
Where would I be then? If this was the heart of God, “I’m not cleaning up other people’s messes.” All he does is clean up other people’s messes. Here I am, rocked and brought low with conviction. God the Father is so kind to correct his children so we’re not miserable living apart from a life of joy found only in laying it down.
I hated having to bend down and pick up the trash off the floor that my handicapped dad liberally littered throughout the day. I hated seeing the dishes that weren’t my own sitting on the counter. I’ve at times gotten so angry with the continual mess that I throw the dishes on the floor and shatter them…only to sweep them up myself anyway. I’m telling on myself and obliterating the façade of perfection people think that followers of Jesus have obtained or they confess to have obtained.
Listen, I need God. Every single human being needs God. Its one’s perception and desperation of that need being met that goes realized by the one called Christian. My need for God isn’t in a moment in the past; it’s a current, present, ever-continual reality. I need God the same amount that I needed God when I was addicted to drugs and alcohol waking up in strange places with people I didn’t know ten years ago. I need him the exact same amount now as I did then. Yeah, he’s cleaned me up and is still doing so, and will be chiseling me to look like him until the day I see Him face to face, which I can hardly wait for. And boy, I’m going to give way to the chisel, because there is a beauty that I can’t produce or hold on to in my earthly frame if I remain as I am.
I think that’s all for now.