Making a Mess of Things
Have you ever let your dishes sit for too long in the sink? I'm not talking about a couple of plates stacked to one side, but instead, I mean the disgusting kind of dirty dishes. Food remains are sliding down the edges, water has turned into sludge inside the containers, and the heap becomes more and more intimidating each time you step up to the counter and gather your confidence to scrub. What if I told you that the best way to clean up your dishes was to just stick your hands in the grime and wait?
As repulsive as that analogy is, it's the best depiction I can give you for what I'm learning to do with the messes in my life. Inside every fiber of my being is a fix-it kind of person. Don't come to me in need of accountability or a to-do list, unless you're prepared to walk away with 12 steps to a better you, courtesy of one Griffin Hill. My perfectionism even seeps into my writing; I often won't publish content if I don't feel confident that my post has an applicable point to convey. If I can't find a solution for my mess, what could someone else possibly learn from it?
If you know the enneagram, it's no surprise that my personality is a 1, or "The Perfectionist". One of the reasons that I have fallen in love with the wisdom of this personality typing system is because of the insight it offers into who we are and the self-work that is required of us, in order to grow into the people we long to be. Recently, I was listening to the Typology Podcast, hosted by enneagram guru Ian Cron, as he discussed the self-work that each type needs to do in order to overcome their natural tendencies. His interviewee, Beatrice Chestnut, said that 1s struggle in the area of spiritual growth and self-work because we become too worried about doing the self work perfectly. In summary, she said,
Perfectionists often have to get worse before they get better because they have to get comfortable with the mess.
Did you catch that? Apparently, my greatest lesson is going to come from sticking my hands into the messes of my life and getting comfortable, an oxymoron that I want to avoid with every ounce of determination I can muster. In fact, I would go so far as to say that God can teach us more from the unresolved messes in our lives than He can from the ones we have already perfected, shelved, and tied up in a nice little bow, only to forget.
There is beauty in the discomfort, in getting to a place of surrender, where you realize that attempting to clean up your own mess is far less purposeful than the peace that comes along with passing the burden. If a world-class cleaner walked into my kitchen and offered to shine everything to perfection, reorganize all of my cabinets, and dust the baseboards, you better believe I would hand over the reins.
God has offered the same promise of excellence for our real messes because His plans will always trump our own.
In her book Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen wrote, "Our confidence comes from believing God can do anything, then stepping back and letting Him. We are trying to do the work of God without God."
While some people would get a sense of relief in knowing they could hand over their mess to someone more qualified, that idea induces fear and anxiety in my world. I can get so easily caught up in the tasks of self work, that I begin to gloss over the reality of letting go and letting God lead. I don't want to sit in the mess because that means I can't control it or fix it or sweep it away. Instead, I have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to stop relying on my natural tendencies and become a better wife, friend, and leader to everyone else.
At the end of the day, I will never be able to find a solution that's more epic than the story God already wrote. He didn't call us to roll up our sleeves and dive into the filth by ourselves. He called us to roll up our sleeves, clasp our hands, and ask Him to do it better.