A Very Messy Faith

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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.

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21 responses »

  1. These are great thoughts. IGod’s greatest victories come when we don’t present a false picture of ourselves as having it all together. When I show my weakness, when I allow myself to have flaws, then God’s transformative power can be seen in me.

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  3. “…God’s transformative power can be seen in me.”

    I like that, Anna. Hopefully, I’ll see that power soon…in me. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Welcome.

    Me too, Annie. The book has been insightful. Love you!!

  4. It’s well worth the read, Goth.

    I hope all’s well. I’ve missed seeing you here, but I know how school can be.

    Love you! 😉

  5. Great post. I had a similar conversation in my comments section; about the Bible being full of people with issues that would make them fall under the messy spirituality category. Amazing how we consider ourselves as needing to be more righteous than some of God’s greatest warriors who was deeply fallen but saved by grace–just like the rest of us.

    Love you Sis XO

  6. I really connect to your post.

    To me it speaks of the functioning of grace versus law.

    Thanks

    Ciao

    Chaz

  7. Lots of things going on in my head but none are coherent for words. I think of you often and wonder how you are feeling. I don’t really understand exactly what you are going through but I know you will be okay because Jesus is your Saviour and in all you go through, you put Him first and try and know Him better and you are asking HIm to change your character into His likeness which is what He wants the most! I try and say a little prayer for you when I think of you and hope if there is a time for tangible help from me, God will make it clear. For now I’m learning to leave things to God! 🙂

  8. “Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy.”

    I think I’d better get the book. That thought brought tears to my eyes.

    (And yep, I’m back from my galavanting! If i ever get around to blogging(!), I’ll be writing about how important family time is. It was a very special trip.)

  9. “Amazing how we consider ourselves as needing to be more righteous than some of God’s greatest warriors who were deeply fallen but saved by grace–just like the rest of us.”

    What is it that we do to ourselves, Gch? I do know we are to press on toward the goal, to put God first above all else, to love Him with our lives and not just our words…but yeah…we do beat ourselves up for not living perfectly when He loves us through the mud of our lives, the dirt of our existence. He knows we are but dust; He understands our frame. He understands our failures more than we do…and He STILL loves us. Amazing!

  10. Punkin, I covet your prayers (and that’s a good kind of coveting!). Thank you for your words of encouragement and your consistency in my life. With all you have on your plate, I don’t expect much “tangible” outside of the very real prayers I know He hears from you. I love you, Punkin, and am so glad to have you as an in-the-flesh sister! 😉

    Hey, Alan! That one really got me too. I tend to think unless I have all the plates in the air, with none falling down around my head, I’m doing well. That’s not at all the point. I need Him. Not to prove myself to anyone…just to be intimate with Him.

    I’m looking forward to reading a post about the importance of family time. You seem to do it well, even when they’re on the other side of the world. Glad you’re back!

  11. Welcome, Chaz! I didn’t see you there. Definitely the contrast of law vs. grace. The book is great…old…but good. Thanks for commenting.

  12. Hi Michelle, I know what you mean, christianity certainly is not the recipe to an easy life. We had an interesting discussion around this at church on sunday, which was basically about the two worlds we live in- the physical present reality and the spiritual presence reality. I think life is what is messy (and messes with us) and God is who keeps us in one piece. Our pastor used the analogy of moses who went up to the mountain to hold up his staff, while the Isrealites had to fight in the valley. The isrealites still needed to fight in the valley, and some of them died and it was bloody and messy, but as long as Moses kept up his connection with God, God was giving them the victory. It’s the same in our lives, we face many battles that we have to fight in the physical, we do actually get thrown around a bit (which isnt fun!!) but that’s life. But God still desires for us to live in victory.

    Sorry for that whole long sermon, it’s really just me repeating the pastor but it made sense to me especially because I have also been struggling a bit with living in both worlds.

    Can we be “fixed” this side of heaven? I’ve been wondering about that a lot. I believe that Jesus died so that we could be whole and complete in Him on earth, living fully in Him and lacking nothing of Him, and a ‘the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ’ (spiritually though, probably not physically because we live in an imperfect world). Obviously we don’t live like that, I certainly don’t, but I think that’s more because of me not understanding enough of God and who I am in Jesus than because of God… if you know what I mean… I’m not explaining myself very well but I hope you get what I mean. Great post!

  13. I believe we can live in victory, Rain, and should aim for that every day. We are told we can walk in the Spirit and not carry out the deeds of the flesh. I’ve heard the story of Moses and the Israelites as the spiritual warfare that goes on in this life. And as long as we hold up the banner of the Lord, and rally around Him in the battle, we will be victorious. I believe it’s true. I’ve experienced it.

    Then, there have been times I haven’t kept my eyes fixed, I haven’t walked in steadfast faithfulness, I’ve allowed the flesh full rein in my life…those times I need to remember, He doesn’t leave me. He’s still walking beside me. He’s still helping me to get back onto the narrow path.

    At least, I hope that’s how it works. Sometimes I feel I’ve so far to go to get back on the path. But I’m still praying, still seeking Him…yeah, it’s definitely more of us not understanding who we are in Him. I think I know what you mean.

    Thanks for commenting, Rain.

  14. It seems fairly clear to me that pretty much all of the ‘mess’ comes when we get it wrong and try to put Him in ‘us’ – we can never do this.

    We are to put ‘us’ (who we truly are, not the illusion) in Him – in His Comforter He has made available to all of us for just such a purpose. In doing so we are to ‘leave behind’ or ‘cast off’ the Old man (that which we know of and think of as human – as who ‘we’ are – so as to live in perfect harmony with Him in a Spirit led awareness).

    This is no simple task to get right, we cannot simply ‘change instantly for the rest of our life.

    Accepting awareness of The Gift of a Pure Clean Spirit within us is easy (for most) but being able to overcome the being formed from flesh and matter so as to live from that Spirit is a lifetimes ‘work’ – and there are no guarantees we can do it well enough.

    Even the Brightest of God’s Angels ‘fell’ short – we are to Hope and work long and hard towards not following that particular example.

    love you Sis.

    <B

  15. “This is no simple task to get right, we cannot simply ‘change instantly for the rest of our life.”

    I agree and disagree, Love. He can change us in a moment from lost to redeemed…from old to new. And yet, it takes a lifetime process of being changed from glory to glory until we see His face.

    You know, when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up he fell down and cried out, “I am undone!” He was a prophet chosen by God. He was a man of dust, chosen to be God’s spokesperson…and in the moment of realization, when Isaiah saw the train of God’s robe and the majesty of the throneroom, he came apart at the seams. Then he declared how unworthy he was to speak for God, “for I am a man of unclean lips.”

    Out of the mouth come the things of the heart…

    I wonder if the closer we get to His glory, the more we see how unworthy we are to be there. And the irony of it, we may be getting closer but we’re feeling further and further away.

    He is so far removed from what we can imagine. His perfection and holiness cannot be obtained and yet, He wants us to be in His presence. He wants us to fellowship with Him.

    So…He made a way, through His Son for every last nook and cranny of our sinful heart to be covered by His blood…

    Even that last dark corner we aren’t sure He saw…He did. He saw it, understood it and covered it.

    Not really sure why I said all of that.
    Guess I needed the reminder…

    Love you, Love!

  16. We ALL need reminders! 🙂

    We agree that He is capable of working through us, in an Instant, things that to our imagination are miracles. Something far Above beyond and in excess of that which we are capable of in our human self – the thing of the earth that is flesh.

    But we, being imperfect creations, and who have MANufactured MUCH that is within us through imperfect understandings, are inclined to understand imperfectly also from time to time and in many things.

    One of those things is in how we as humans ‘work’.

    God can make change within us in many ways, some great and some ‘small’ but the being we have become throughout living each individual life on this planet can often reject or corrupt those changes back into the form we find ‘more’ acceptable to the ‘darker’ imperfect forms that exist within each one of us.

    It is an understanding of this i fear many Christians do not in any way understand and fool themselves into a false sense of ‘security’ that makes His Work in us a far more difficult task for Him than might otherwise be the case.

    I know of people ( good friends) who have been changed in an instant – and perhaps for life – through His Faith, however it is clear to see that a single change at one point in our life does not remove ALL our darkness from within.

    As you said there is a lifelong process involved – and we too often fall back on some old (or perhaps new) ways to ‘stray’ from The Path to Him.

    As for us being unworthy – as i see it that which is within us that comes from the Earth and to which we shall return one day and shall be forgotten – that is unworthy, but i do not consider that is ALL there is to who we are. His life exists within us to some degree – our spirit is of Him and is therefore in no way UNworthy of Him

    Sometimes it is good to be reminded of that also 🙂

    I have a clear understanding that as a being we pay almost non-existent attention to that of Him which exists within each one of us, but rather pay almost total attention to that which is not from Him.

    Hence the ‘Mess’ 😉

    <B

  17. Hey I’ve missed being around, but life as it is has been trying lately and I just haven’t had the energy or drive to DO much of anything except stress….ya! (just so you know that’s a very sarcastic ‘ya!’)…….anyway things seem to be getting back on track so count on my once-again emerging presence.
    Love you too! 🙂
    G

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