Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

Bless the gifts of a beautiful mess

By 
  • August 18, 2022

Mess is a theme in my life, and therefore also in my barefoot preaching. I think I return to the theme because mess challenges me so deeply. While I grew, I found relief in order, comfort in control, rest in simplicity. And I wandered into a world with a tendency toward disorder, a resistance to control and more complexity than I could have imagined. I tried and failed to eliminate the mess, and I crawled out of rock bottom (more than once) to make peace with the reality of mess.

This summer, I am reflecting on the different types of messes, finding myself lost in the beautiful mess. It differs from the destructive mess that threatens to pull me under, that demands a radical and weary surrender to change. It is not the same as the cluttered mess that inspires a garage sale or a shift toward minimalism. The beautiful mess is the collision of human intention and natural wonder and longing for things to be different and exactly as they are, all at once.

A beautiful mess is easier to describe than define. So, I offer a summer of litany of the beautiful mess, in the hope it inspires your own.

  • A poppy growing defiantly in the rocks and weeds where landscaping fabric was carefully laid beneath to prevent all the plants from sprouting. A child pouring water on it from a plastic watering can that has long since lost the sprinkle spout – in my sock drawer.
  • One hundred and nineteen people in an anniversary photo. I arrived late, scurrying my last two kids in just in time, after a time change and many reminders to be on time. The frame holding so much joy, all the perfect imperfections of each smiling (and growling) mystery. The image unable to capture the sounds of the voices, the stories carried by so many lifetimes colliding for the occasion.
  • Tears and fear where I want to be stoic and confident. Receiving a hug, a kind word, laughter. Resisting the falling apart only to discover that my weakness makes my humanity accessible. Finding connection at the bottom, instead of the top.
  • Fifty-seven photos of the same white flower, growing in clover and grass. Four in focus. No space left on my cell phone. Grinning toothless selfie.
  • A text from a friend describing the hour of quiet she was given as a gift for the mere cost of fort building. Found items from the garage. All the blankets freed from the fresh laundry basket. Nails and hammers everywhere. Fresh mud. Laughter. And a bathtub with warm, running water and an abundance of soap. Kids old enough to clean up, as well as build.
  • The same old argument, resurfacing with new words. Eyes to recognize the pattern. Hearts to see the hope that this time it might end differently. Grace for stepping out of the dance that leads to destruction. Gentleness in the words. Softening into what we all need instead of who is right.
  • A problem. Stated factually and aggressively. A myriad of ways to respond and people to share in the carrying. Disagreements voiced, tensions held, differences surfacing. Questions holding more power than answers. Perspectives shifting. Problem giving way to possibility.
  • Trees growing up through a deck. Prairie grass reclaiming a garden. Gophers moving into wooden cabinets a century old. Life taken over by life. Remnants abandoned to an archaeological dig for another century.

A beautiful mess is a privilege. The resources you need to love in it are right in the mess itself. Its imperfection is an invitation rather than a threat. It whispers to stay awhile, a marvel at the mystery of what you would have missed if you had caused or created it, tried to control it or found a cure for it. You couldn’t if you tried.

A beautiful mess is the gift of receiving what life does when I live in it. I arrive with my intentions and creativity, welcome the others and their stuff, say yes to the improvisations. A beautiful mess is built on the trust that what could be is better than what I would have done on my own.

Here’s to the beautiful messes. May there be more of them. And may I have the grace to love them.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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