It was slimy. Shallow water mixed with humid air. Tadpoles and minnows filled the tiny almost-creek that was more muck and yuck than clear water. Perfect for a four year old boy. For me too.
The Court Jester and I laughed and explored the small stream, stepping over rocks and picking up big sticks. Really, it was so narrow in most parts we could just leap across.
In no time at all, my Caleb-boy was ankle deep in water smiling big in my direction.
Soaked sneakers. Sopping socks. These were my first two thoughts. The car ride home was my third. But I realized—damage done. And nothing died. The water was gross, but he was unafraid of the mess.
That’s the thing about children. They unabashedly share their messy lives with the world. The littles of humanity smile at us with food-lined faces and mud-caked hands. They rush to our sides with paint-stained fingers, wiping rainbow colors on our sleeves.
Children share their mess with the world—fully allowing us to be in their world.
We were all children once. Sharing our mud pies and drippy-glue pictures with anyone who would look at them.
But then we grew up.
We grew up and someone told us our mess wasn’t good enough. We’re told don’t get dirty. Wipe your face. Fix your hair. Suck in your stomach. Cover those blemishes. Show only your beauty marks. Don’t share those sins.
Hide your mess.
Be perfect. And love perfect. That is the message we hear.
With those voices shouting loudest, we’re left striving toward perfection. Pushing. Struggling. Attempting to attain an ideal as a wife, a mother, a human. An ideal that only ever becomes whitewashed walls. Walls that can’t cover oily fingerprints and greasy smudges forever.
When we only allow others to see our cleanest, most kept-up parts, we alienate ourselves. We close our hearts off. The mirror we hold up to the world is a reflection that bares no likeness to the truth.
We walk around looking into the perfect reflections of a world that doesn’t exist.
When we present perfection, humanity will believe Jesus can only love the perfect. But my Jesus came because we each are imperfect. We each have stains on our dusty souls.
When we keep the world from seeing our own mud-flung lives, we are distant reflections of Christ, failing to allow the dirt of the world touch the hems of our garments—failing to love the world He loves.
But it’s so hard to be real.
So I hide. Refusing to allow others into my mess. My dust and dirt. I close the door of my home and keep you out because you might see my failings, my flaws—my mess. Afraid to let my real life seep into the life I want you to see. Afraid trust you. Afraid you won’t love me.
We are made for more. More than fear.
The truth really can set us free.
We want to be loved for who we are. For people to love our true selves—our messy, dirt-ridden selves—we must be willing to share our mess. No one can love our mess if they don’t know our mess.
I spent the afternoon with two beautiful women who have embraced my mess. I sat across the table, warm coffee in my hands, sharing my struggles, my haunting thoughts. I revealed the most diseased parts of my life right now.
These two treasures didn’t try to clean me up. While wisdom was shared, I felt the warm embrace of two friends who love me—dirt and all. With them I am safe.
I want others to know they are safe with me. When I step forward, exposing my ugliness, others may discover their grime can be safe with me.
We must meet each other in the middle of our slimy, gross streams. We can’t fix the brokenness—only our Jesus can mend and heal and wash our dirt-stained lives. But we can love. And what really matters in this life? That we love one another.
And I want to love you—the real you. Because you are beautiful. Your mess is part of the thread sewn into your beautiful life. To love me, to love you, is to love the messiness of our lives. Please don’t hide from me. I won’t hide from you.
Can we go play in the mud together?