Lounging in a coffee shop, I lifted a Grilled Brie and Veggie sandwich to my mouth as my stomach rumbled. It had been too long since my last meal and I was famished. Out of the toasted sandwich spilled long strings of brie, interspersed with bits of finely chopped olives, tomatoes, red peppers, and onion marinated in lemon and Italian seasonings. Delectable! I had thought twice about ordering it, knowing it would be a mess, but I couldn’t resist. Quickly moving to catch the falling pieces with my mouth, my hand, anything but my clothes, the other side of the sandwich fell open. Plop! A large mound of veggie and brie goodness made it’s home in my lap. Crisis not averted. One pair of jeans down.
I sighed. “I knew this was going to be messy, but this is far messier than I ever anticipated,” I said to myself. But I was smiling. The flavors were exploding in my mouth and I couldn’t help but be humored by the mess. The price my jeans were paying, not to mention my dignity, was worth it for the quality of the food, the taste and nourishment filling my empty stomach.
When we began the work of LOVEboldly, I knew it was going to be messy, but I couldn’t resist. We work day in and day out to catch the damaging stuff before it occurs, only to have the other side of the proverbial sandwich open and land unfamiliar and unwanted ingredients in our laps and in the laps of those we love. I knew this work was going to be messy, but several years later, I have to say, “This is far messier than I ever anticipated.”
Crisis not averted. Another family broken, another LGBT person victimized, another conservative evangelical pastor demonized, another person angry at the people we welcome in the doors of our meetings, our lives, and our hearts.
As messy as reconciliation work gets though, most days I can look at the ways it sits in a messy heap in our laps, staining us and changing us in ways we hadn’t anticipated and sometimes don’t want, and, recognizing it’s goodness, I can smile. The beauty of authentic relationships, shared hope, growing Christlikeness, and mutual affection for one another is worth the price we pay when we have to change the destructive attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs which have clothed us for too long. I could not have comprehended just how worthwhile a price the messiness would be for the quality of what we are internally receiving in the work of reconciliation, the taste of the experience, and the nourishment to our souls as we celebrate the coming of God’s kingdom on earth watching his healing work in us, with our enemies, and with God himself.
I could have ordered something more tidy. But I’m glad I didn’t. I’m looking forward to my next trip to that coffee shop and another order of Veggies and Brie on toast. Messiness be damned!