When our sons can’t find the toy or the book that they are looking for, we’ve learned that the most productive thing to do is to start cleaning up the mess. When we clean up, we inevitably find the thing we were looking for.
The mess is where things go to hide.
In our church and world, there is plenty of mess. And by mess, I do not mean conflict. Conflict can be healthy and will always be with us.
The mess I mean is what happens when we do not practice empathy on the “other side” of the conflict, choosing instead to whip up the indignation of “our side” against the other. This failure of empathy creates a mess: layers of wrecked communication, triggered egos, activated amygdalas. This mess confuses the important issue at hand and barricades us more deeply on our illusory moral high ground.
Too often, the mess is where we go to hide, and almost always unconsciously. Hide from our own vocation, our own capacity for connection, commitment, and contribution.
It is far easier to focus on someone else’s mess than to do the hard work we are meant to do.
Holiness, I think, consists in realizing that we are not better than anyone else and all need grace in a profound way. This humility frees us to begin to clean up the mess and find the love we were seeking in the first place.