“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
For most of my adult years, this idea of embracing brokenness and finding beauty in our messes has been winding its way through the narrative of my faith story in one form or another. For a while, I found great comfort in the “I’m a beautiful mess” mentality because I felt like I was a mess and everything about my life was a mess. Good. But messy.
As a young mom, there were always piles of laundry, toys invading the living room, crumbled goldfish and lost French fries living in the back seat of the car, and boxes of outgrown clothes piled up in the back of the kids’ closets (and mine for that matter!). In the most literal sense, my life was messy, no matter how hard I tried to keep it orderly. I finally quit fighting against what seemed to be determined to take over my life and leaned into the beautiful mess of being a young mom.
Mothering young children in my sleep-deprived state was … exhausting. Trying to figure out how to be a wife, much less a good and Godly one … also exhausting. That Proverbs 31 lady set the bar way too high, right? (No one had told me that passage was a poem to be used as a celebration for women and I’m a pretty literal girl.) Handling all the household duties, being involved in various ministries, and running a little side business left me depleted. The only time I gave to nurturing my relationship with Jesus, I went in looking for peace, comfort, and superhuman endurance. I held tight to that idea that Jesus could love me even then, as messy and tired as I was, and call me beautiful - a word that was very rarely attributed to me during my life up to that point.
But that was where I stopped. I didn’t really want to examine the state of my spirit. I only wanted to own my surface-level messiness and chaos, the socially acceptable part that there are 27,492 memes to back myself up with. Truly owning my spiritual state of selfishness, my lack of desire for time with Jesus that would have made it a priority rather than an afterthought … not so much. I took it all for granted. Not only was my life a mess, but so was my soul. But I was in denial. I went to church with my husband and kids. I served in multiple capacities in ministry. I loved Jesus and had a relationship with him. That was enough.
As I hit the “midlife crisis” years, I started digging deeper into my faith. The depth of how truly broken and messy I was rolled over my heart and God laid some beautiful framework that would support what was coming next. My perfect, textbook American Dream, fairytale life fell apart. My marriage ended. I began the messy, complicated process of divorce - the death of my dreams, and a life of co-parenting with a person who went from being my best friend to what felt like an enemy. My true self — my heart — could not have been splayed out before my eyes more clearly than it was in those moments of grief and regret. My life was overwhelmingly marked by brokenness, but my heart was tired of embracing it. There had to be more than this.
I recently read this quote:
“It’s a grace to regret. Grace allows you to face your sin, to own it and not shift the blame. But it is also grace that forgives what has been exposed. Grace forces you to feel the pain of your regrets, but never asks you to pay for them, because the price has already been paid by Jesus.”
― Paul David Tripp
In my younger years of mothering, embracing my brokenness meant grasping at grace. But my view of grace was limited and one-sided. In reality, grace is multi-faceted, limited only by what we choose to receive. I only wanted the grace that alleviated my guilt for all the ways that I was failing in my life, or for how I responded to circumstances beyond my control. I was selfish, I gossiped, I was passive aggressive, I withheld forgiveness, and I was prideful, to name a few. I knew God would forgive me for those, but honestly, I didn’t ever want to be pricked by just how much I actually sinned and how deeply that sin wounded God’s heart. I didn’t want to own the true state of my broken soul. I just wanted a free pass to spend some time wallowing in my broken state. The whole idea of “I’m a beautiful mess” became my justification for my behavior. After all, God loves us in our brokenness, right?
I embraced my brokenness, wearing it like a badge of honor. I’m thankful God didn’t leave that badge firmly pinned to my chest like I might have (most certainly) wanted to do. One day, the grace of regret finally washed over me. I now am embracing the fact that even though I am broken, a sinner who is oh so selfish and prideful, Jesus loves me. The grace isn’t just that God is willing to forgive us. The grace is that he loves us enough to prick our hearts, to cause unrest in our souls, so that we see our need for confession. And then, the grace is that He always forgives.
Instead of embracing brokenness, I am embracing rescue and restoration. I’ll happily own that I’m indeed broken and messy. That much hasn’t changed. But now I’m embracing grace. Not the comfortable kind that gives me a free pass, though. In His grace, God revealed and will continue to reveal my brokenness to me. I am a sinner and will continue to be until I pass away from this earth. But I choose to embrace the rescue and restoration given to me and the grace that reminds me of my need for it. Over and over.
Grace upon grace upon grace.
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