The Body of Christ: What a "Beautiful Mess"

When I was in high school, and Christ had begun drawing me back to him from the rebellion I'd been living out for several years, I came across a band called Sixpence None the Richer (best known, perhaps, for their song "Kiss Me"). The album of theirs that I loved most was just close enough to Smashing Pumpkins-style music for me to dig it, while being challenged by the lyrics to look at life more through the lens of faith... a perfect fit for that time in my life.

One of the songs that meant a lot to me at that time was "Within a Room Somewhere". It talks about every breath of life being the potential impetus for us to realize that Christ is there:
Messiah, I know You are there
Within, without me, holding me
Messiah, I know You are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess
The last line of that chorus fits so well, that Christ catches and carries us, and also gives us a useful description of ourselves. That view of myself, a sinful human, as a "beautiful mess" is a good one, I think. Realizing that as believers, we are beautiful in Christ... and that in our very nature, made in the image of God, we are beautiful... all the while, realizing that we are, each of us, a mess. A sinful, messy, doing-what-we-don't-want-to-do, not-doing-what-we-want-to-do mess.

The Body of Christ can be the same way. It's hard to live in community. To open yourself up authentically, to receive exhortation & correction. To know how to hold fast to what is essential (the Gospel) and offer grace and freedom in non-essentials. It's so tough to interact with others on a deep level and then not feel hurt or wounded when we disagree on things that are significant in our hearts or minds, or when our sin natures become painfully obvious.

Just this week, I've come across three instances of messy, difficult-to-sort Body life. It can be tempting to think we'd just be better off alone.

Lori Chaffer's song "Alone Everybody" sums it up pretty well:
I am happiest when by myself
Nobody’s hurt, nobody’s helped
Like a gun or bullet on a shelf
Alone, everybody’s fine
So I tiptoe around because it’s easier to fake it
Try not to be loud, or emotionally naked
I've been thinking I could get along
I think I’m happy, I think I’m strong
But like my cactus when it’s dry too long
Alone even cacti die
Alone everybody’s fine
Alone everybody lies
Alone everybody cries

Really, it's true. Alone isn't good for anyone. The mess of community, however messy it sometimes gets, is preferable to the mess that happens when we are unrefined, left to ourselves. We are such a beautiful mess when we come together as the Body of Christ.

Alone is not how God meant for human life to be lived. He built community into our make-up... we aren't like many of the animals where we reproduce together but live life mainly alone... He set it up so that marriage is a necessary and right part of overall human life. He separated the people out into people groups with various languages and lands, so that identity and community would be significant in our lives. Christ Himself modeled intensive community life; His first followers walked that same path as the early church. He calls out the Body of Christ to love and honor one another, pursuing unity and peace, so that more people will be drawn to Him.

Though messy & certainly not easy, it *IS* a miracle. In Christ, we have the ability to forgive. We have the ability to live at peace with people that we formerly did not. Even, miraculously, to have unity and fellowship with people that have wounded us in profound ways. As the Body of Christ, we can live in a way that is markedly different from the vengeful, bitter, self-protective, interpersonally-insulated world around us.

I pray for grace to walk in that.

In Christ, we have all we need for godly living... but it requires that we abide. Trust and obey. Love one another deeply. Be at peace with one another. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling. All the things the Word tells us.

Body life as the Church is, really, a beautiful mess.


Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

And this is a beautiful post, Jess. Thank you.

Luke said...

Great points! And I liked that album too... as well as several Smashing Pumpkins songs [smile].


Homeschool Dawn said...

Great post! I've had a few struggles in this area this week, too. Thanks for the conviction.

Graceful Threads said...

Reminds me of a message Pastor preached about all the chaos that was going on at the Last Supper and the events leading up to. Jesus called Peter a devil. Peter backslid.At the actual supper they were fighting over who would be greatest. Judas was gone to sell Jesus. The disciples were all saying...*Is it me*? Jesus told them one would betray Him. Here were the greatest men of God the world has seen. The men who would write the Bible and they were bickering and fighting and was a mess! Through it all I think GOd is teaching us that we are to love and serve and relate to one another in spite of the difficulties. Relationship.

Ruth said...

Hi Jess,
I can really relate to this post. It seems like in order for relationships to go deep we have to work through messy situations. I wish the deep relationships were possible without the mess. :) I guess it is because we are all imperfect people with much to learn and grow in. Sometimes the mess is just so humbling, and yet it is healthy when we allow the Lord to stretch us out of those comfort zones and help us to be authentic and teachable. Sometimes it really feels like a big ouch though. :) I love your posts!

Ruth from Texas

These Three Kings said...

Graciously put!!! i could not agree more!! we must fight the temptation to have this perspective towards one another..its not until we have truly come to UNDERSTAND AND TASTE the GRACE OF THE LORD will we live in the freedom to LOVE one another as we should! what a great post!!

Grace to you my sister!

FancyHorse said...

Yes, we are a "beautiful mess" aren't we? Sometimes more a mess than beautiful, LOL! That's why we need to stay close to Him in prayer and Bible reading, confessing daily. Thank you so much for your insight.

I have an award for you on my blog. Please stop by and claim it. :-)

~ Judy ~ said...

From one "beautiful mess" to another:
THANK YOU! Your post enriched my day!
Seeing how "messy" we all are...I am thankful that we have the BEST CLEANER in the world in Jesus through His sacrament of Reconciliation!

Lauren Bleser said...

This ministered to me today more than you can imagine... Thank you.

Mom/Nana said...

That was fantastic! I couldn't help but think of Ethan and the story you told about when he was real little coming in after playing outside for a long while- I think in the dirt, and declaring to you "Mama, Ina mess!" Even he knew that in that state, he was just plain a mess! I often think of that statement when I'm thinking about what a "mess" I really am!

Sarah said...

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Catherine R. said...

Community in the 'body' is something I've been thinking about lately. It *is* hard.

I went shopping at a used baby gear event the other day with 2 women from my church. Between the long lines, the logistics of everyone's babies and kids, hunger, crying, diapers, was mostly a true pain! But I feel like there were small jewels that I gained from it, in it was a pain! Sometimes the benefit is not even apparent, does that make sense?

It is so hard to break out of my tiny, independent, clean world. I want to do it all myself and not deal with anyone. Then who do I call when I really need a friend? I know that it's not meant to be 100% fun and games. It's hard.

Julie said...

Hey Jess--Like everyone else, I found this to be a timely post.

Three reasons why--1. Staff changes at our church. 2. A small group I'm in often leaves me feeling frustrated. 3. The temptation to imagine that there are "greener pastures" elsewhere--a different small group, a "better" staff at church. (Oh that sounds awful!)

But this is a good reminder that any group of believers is going to be a "beautiful mess." I need to love the ones I'm with, to tackily quote an old song. :)

Thanks for another thoughtful post!


Jess said...

I still enjoy a goodly number of Smashing Pumpkins songs, Luke. :)

Graceful Threads & Ruth,
It's so rough, isn't it? It's absurd how much we infight and cause hurt to one another. Without Christ in us, we'd be without hope.

Yes, I love his little "Ina mess"... I still remind him of that sometimes. :)

Sometimes it feels like the only thing we "get" from the Body of Christ is the ability to identify with Christ in His sufferings, in being misunderstood, in being unduly judged, in being hastily criticized... But, and I need to be reminded of this more than anyone... identifying with Christ is significant and good and right and an undeserved honor.

Boy, I know that feeling... seeing those greener pastures. Trouble is, church is full of sinners... no matter which one we pick. :)

Thanks, all, for your comments and thoughts!