From the Midst of the Mess

IMG_1971It seems that whenever my turn comes around to write here, there is often an uncomfortable part of my story that I feel compelled to share. Sometimes I ignore the urge and write about something else, but more often than not, I share the messy stuff. Ohhhhh, I don’t like messes. I like resolution. I like a finished product. I like conclusions. I like the perfect wrap up and a pretty bow on top. I’m still waiting for life to work itself out that way.

I’ve been seeing a counselor. He’s nudging me in some painful directions, for my good. We are exploring together the “good girl” that I have always been and still am. The performer. The people-pleaser. The strong silent type. The perfectionist. The Pharisee. (That last one is actually scripture hitting me in the face repeatedly.)

He asked me once how God and Jesus are beautiful to me in my every day life. I laughed, shrugged, and said, “I don’t know.” I laughed because, like a good City Pres member and employee, I’ve been hash-tagging “believeable and beautiful” left and right. But when he asked that question I realized I hadn’t been exploring and reflecting on what those words mean.

Our most recent sermon series was “Doubting Fearful Heart.” A couple of friends sprang to mind that I wanted to invite to hear those sermons. I knew they had reasons to fear and to doubt and wanted them to come to City Pres and to hear the hope of the gospel. It took a couple of weeks into the series for me to get the point- we all have doubting fearful hearts. Even me. It was exactly like finding the plank in my eye after being so worried about my friends’ speck.

I don’t think of myself as a doubter. I can rattle off to you 5 or 6 things about my life right this moment that are just plain hard. Any one of those things could crush a person’s spirit, and God has seen fit to give me all of them at once. But if you ask me if I doubt the goodness of God? Of course I will say no. I’ll be a little offended that you even asked me that. I know the hope of the gospel. I know all the words to those amazing songs we sing that speak to our doubt. I know and relate to them, but I never let myself hang out too long in the first few verses. I skip to the end of the song- those verses that remind me to hope. The verses that call me to look up, for the storms will soon be over.

My job at City Pres includes knowing what to say to those who are hurting. When I send flowers from the church, God usually brings to mind a verse, a song, or an encouraging word to speak to that person or family. I wouldn’t say that those words are empty of meaning, but I do think they are often coming from a heart that doesn’t truly believe that what she is saying is true for herself.

The reality is that storms are still raging all around me. Storms are raging in my heart, whether or not I choose to acknowledge them. And why acknowledge them? Why allow myself to wallow in all that’s hard? Why explore the hurts of my past and the pain of my present? I guess it’s because, if God has seen fit to not only bring the trial into my life, but also to bring the trial to mind, then He must be trying to teach me something.

“What are you to do? Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from these waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Keep turning your eyes to him and go on trusting that he will bring peace to your heart. Look at him and say, “Lord, have mercy.” Say it again and again, not anxiously but with confidence that he is very close to you and will put your soul to rest.” -Henri Nouwen

“Say it again and again…” from the midst of the mess. Even when the full picture, final result, and pretty bow still seem forever away.

Keely Steger