Embrace the mess.

In reading Proverbs 14 this morning, I began to think of an episode of “Monk”, a TV comedy/ whodunit from the early 2000’s. The main character, Adrian Monk, is an astounding but neurotic detective who struggles with OCD and an epic list of phobias. I recalled an episode where Monk was teaching a high school class to catch a murderer. He is introducing himself to the class and, as all teachers do, he begins to write his name on the board. He starts and then dislikes the first line of the letter M in “Mr. Monk”. He erases it and starts again. He grimaces, erases and starts again. Meticulous, tedious repeating as the time passes. And finally, the bell rings, and when the class is dismissed, and Monk is still standing at the chalkboard rewriting that first line of the “M.” It’s both funny and sad at the same time. I can say that this past year had me feeling tentative about what tasks or initiatives I started, for fear that in some new way the pandemic and its periphery would bring my effort to naught. If there is one thing I hate, it’s wasting time (it’s not necessarily a positive thing).

One of the most interesting verses in this chapter is verse 4:“Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of the ox come abundant harvests.” Sometimes a mess is just part of the process of progress. If we didn’t have all these animals the stable would surely smell a lot better. But without the horsepower (pun intended) the harvest isn’t happening. Manure is an agricultural reality. This “mess” is actually a sign of strength and vitality. Only dead things stop producing waste. Progress often begins with some mess. My kids think that is the best part of our home improvement projects. My son, Kendrick, will shout the Chip Gaines battle-cry: “WHAT’S TODAY? DEMO DAY!” and smash the old flooring with a sledgehammer.

In this proverb the writer speaks of planning good things and finding love and faithfulness (v22), and hard work bringing a profit (v23). So, we are not talking about being careless but being courageous. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t grieve the difficult losses that 2020 brought us. However, from the rubble we are called to see the potential and the possibility, to embrace the mess and press on into something new and wonderous – something we perhaps could not see in the midst of the loss and destruction. We must embrace the mess, fix our eyes on Jesus, and step into this new year with a sense of wonder and expectation.