Heart Strings

You know that season of life where everything falls into place? Where each responsibility is a personal joy and gets fulfilled with prompt excellence? The season that allows you to balance work and rest, and where both are equally satisfying? Where birds harmonize with your cheerful wake-up tune and laundry folds itself?

Oh. It sounds foreign to you, too?

Like it or not, life shares much more in common with a giant ball of messy strands than the color-coordinated lineup found in craft stores. Happy as I am with those neat, individually packaged bundles of bright pink ribbon, it seems that within two weeks of removing the wrapping at home, I wind up with a frenzied mix of pink, lime green, fuzzy blue, and orange (with equal parts cat fur and dust bunny added in for good measure).

Though typically organized, my heart has become swamped lately. The fall calendar got bombarded with good and necessary things, expectations (mainly self-imposed) are soaring sky-high, and there’s a mound of dreams and to-dos waiting to be checked off…as soon as I get them out of my head and onto paper. Along with the internal chaos, the external environment—my library/office/creative studio—has fallen to pieces. Books, paper jumbles, actual ribbon, bits of projects I’m working on (or, more realistically, have shamelessly abandoned) collect into a picture of what’s going on inside me. It’s not pretty. And I love pretty.

People. Yesterday I realized I have four planners—all with few but different things in them.

For my personality type, this is a red-alert situation. So I brewed up some strong tea and posted pictures of my reality to encourage friends on Facebook (and also to sucker-punch the side of myself that strives for the Miss Perfect award).

Later, we can process how to dig our souls out of this kind of turmoil together. But until then, can I just give you permission to own your mess? Let’s normalize the issue here.

Maybe it’s your kids or your marriage or your car that’s so stuffed it looks like you’re moving to college. Or it’s a new (or old) role you’re expected to take on that feels overwhelming. It might just be a summit of small things, but crammed together, it screams unscalable. Perhaps you could join my Four Planners Club because you keep hoarding information but forgetting where you put it. Whatever your tangle of strings is, let’s just look at it for a minute. (I know, it’s tempting to start teasing out the knots and separating them into less-frightening pieces. But fight it.)

Apart from a need to control, to manage, to get myself in order, I prod my soul. What do I sense? I feel relief. This chaos can be beautiful for the moment. God has not lost His grip on the world just because I’ve lost mine. He remains very much in charge, cool as a cucumber. He nudges me gently and asks for my mess—the mess that makes me want to avoid my office and the things I feel too inadequate to tackle. This invitation isn’t one to abdicate my responsibility. Just to not let it sweep me under where I can’t breathe, where I forget who He is.

The fact that there’s a mess in the first place is reason to celebrate for this fearful perfectionist. It means I’m living with enough courage to make beauty. Disarray is a common side effect of living out the image of God in a world tending toward decay, and the mess means there was a struggle; I haven’t surrendered to the dark. The Lord is fighting in me, for me, with me, and He will not come undone. He doesn’t laugh at my mess. Nor is He horrified by it. His are gentle hands to hold it for a while as we inspect it together with curiosity rather than judgment.

If your whole heart (or even just one bit of it) is a wreck, don’t despair. And don’t rush to fix. Let it be an outstretched hand up onto your Daddy’s lap. Why waste a perfectly good mess of things? Leaning against the Father’s chest, hearing His heart beat steady, a memory we haven’t known yet comes: this is a new adventure. And He wants all of it—including all of who we are, the gory and the glorious—in the middle of it. What a deliciously terrifying embrace this is.

In the midst of the chaos, how might you focus more on what Jesus has done than on what you have to do?

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