When I was traveling to a different campus just about every week as a national advisor, I would toss my duffel bag and backpack into the middle of my room until the next trip, usually just days later. In those few days, the bags would usually puke clothes, shoes and what not all over my room as I geared up to hit the road again. I didn’t really see the point in unpacking just to have to pack again. This is how things went from September through November.
I don’t like messes. I like to have my ducks in a row, as well as my clothes, books, furniture and so on. In those days when I was always on the road, it was hard to keep things in order. There wasn’t much of a point given every time I returned home I was on the verge of leaving again.
So rather than spazzing about stashing my bags and clothes to keep up appearances, I learned to just deal with the clutter. I got to a point where I was ok with sitting in my mess. I was a big boy. I could have cleaned up my room if I really wanted to, but the mess was just going to come back if I haphazardly tossed my junk into the closet and under my bed. It wouldn’t have really solved anything. The mess was still there.
I’m pretty good at making a mess of more than just my room. That’s what sin does. It sullies everything it touches. And 27 years of life has taught me that I am really good at sinning. Sometimes surprisingly good at it. I find new and creative ways to fall flat on my face on a near daily basis. Some would call me an innovator.
As a (slowly) recovering perfectionist, my default setting is to hurry up and clean up my messes before anyone sees that I am not perfect. I am generally quick to repent when I mess up, which is the appropriate response. Then I move on and act like that was a mishap uncharacteristic of who I am. Toss the bags in the closet. Kick the dirty clothes under the bed. No one will see them there.
The fact of the matter is that sin is completely consistent with who I am. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am so much more sinful than I like to give myself credit. Yet I am so much more loved than I will ever grasp.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
When I stop acting surprised about my sin and start enjoying the freedom I have in Christ, there is a ton of opportunity for growth. I recently listened to a lecture from John Coe on Romans 8:1 that expanded my perspective on a verse I had heard a number of times. Because there is no condemnation in Christ, I no longer have to beat myself up, cover up sin or hurry to clean myself up. This God-breathed, blood-bought promise says that Christ won’t condemn me and neither my peers nor myself can condemn me. I am sinning when I burden myself by piling on condemnation that Christ himself has already paid for.
In light of the fact that I am exempt from even my own condemnation, I am able to sit in the mess I have made in order to try to understand it. Why did I fail? What caused me to fall into sin? What lie did I believe? What deeper source idols and heart issues are at work here?
Scrambling to clean up my messes and keep up appearances does not get rid of the mess; That just hides it. Then I miss out on a learning experience that the Lord is leading me through. He wants me to use my freedom to learn about myself, namely how messed up I am and how desperately I need him. This is a messy route to holiness, but it is a productive one.
So take some time to sit in your own mess, and praise Jesus for walking with you through it. Praise him for revealing blind spots and pressing into them with the intent of fully delivering you from them. Quit hiding your mess. Leverage your freedom in Christ to learn from your mess and grow from your poor decisions.