I was told months ago to find Michael Yaconelli’s book, Messy Spirituality. And, once again, I’ve not ventured too far into it and feel he is speaking my heart.
Can we be “fixed” this side of heaven? Is the spiritual life a formula of living right that leads to joy? Is it possible to be spiritual and totally messed-up at the same time? Here’s what Yaconelli has to say:
Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.
Look at the Bible. Its pages overflow with messy people. The biblical writers did not edit out the flaws of its heroes. Like Noah, for example. Everyone thought he was crazy. He certainly was a little strange, but Noah was also courageous, a man of great faith and strong will. Against the backdrop of unrelenting ridicule, Noah built a huge ark in the middle of the desert because God told him it was going to rain. No one believed him, but the rains did come and the flood happened, and after the water receded, Noah triumphantly left the boat, got drunk, and got naked.
What? Drunk and naked? I don’t recall any of my Bible teachers or pastors talking about Noah’s . . . uh . . . moment of indiscretion . . . er . . . weakness . . . um . . . failure. The Noah I’ve always heard about was fiercely faithful, irrepressibly independent, and relentlessly resolute. Noah was the model of great faith. Very few ever refer to Noah’s losing battle with wine. Maybe being strong and faithful has its downside. Maybe for flood survivors life is more complicated than we would like to think, and maybe even Noah could have bouts of depression and loneliness….
You might say Christianity has a tradition of messy spirituality. Messy prophets, messy kings, messy apostles. From God’s people getting in one mess after another in the Old Testament to most of the New Testament’s being written to straighten out messes in the church, the Bible presents a glorious story of a very messy faith….
Messy Spirituality unveils the myth of flawlessness and calls Christians everywhere to come out of hiding and stop pretending.