Our pastor had just finished up his sermon on falling – on admitting we are powerless and broken – when my son dropped his entire cup of hot chocolate on the church carpet (and my new shoes).
I had just heard, written down, and whispered, “Amen” to these words: “Instead of the safest place to fall, the church has become one of the most dangerous places to mess up.” Yes, I told myself. We must change this. We must be okay with messes. Jesus was all about messy people. I had just filled an entire page with notes on admitting we are powerless, getting rid of toxic egos, and giving up the act of having it all together.
But then the spilled hot chocolate, the rush for paper towel, my two-year-old wandering away in the chaos, other parents watching – and my first instinct was to run and hide.
I can say, “Yes, you are messed up and welcome here and okay just as you are,” but if I’m honest – this is often easier than admitting that I’m a mess, too.
I really, really don’t want to be the one with the mess, the one needing help.
As an adult, I’ve honed the skill of pretending. Then I had children. They will scream in a store, pass gas in an elevator, giggle as they refuse to listen, or declare “Oh, I hate this game!” when opening a gift from a great-grandparent. (I think my face is still red.) To be a parent is to feel like a failure over and over each day because now my imperfection and vulnerability has skin on it and walks around in the world. My children force me to deal with my own impatience, my need for attention, and the insecurities I try my best to hide.
I find comfort and inspiration in Brené Brown words from her book, Daring Greatly: “Even though the vulnerability of parenting is terrifying at times, we can’t afford to armor ourselves against it or push it away – it’s our richest, most fertile ground for teaching and cultivating connection, meaning, and love.”
Alerted to the mess on the carpet, the custodian at the church modeled grace. While he could have reacted with frustration or simply got busy cleaning, he stopped to talk, smiled at me and my children, assured us this was no big deal, and said, “The church is supposed to be used and messy.” His response removed the shame out of the situation and replaced it with perspective and grace.
It’s simple to sit in a pew and agree with the words of a sermon. But the work is so hard once we leave that sanctuary – especially when truth comes in the form of stained shoes and swallowed pride.