The Truth About the Mess

My house is a mess. I know why it is a mess, but what surprised me is how I have contributed to it.

My daughter and a friend have been working on a project for competition the last three evenings and we allowed them to leave their stuff out. They are drawing plans, cutting samples of finishes, printing selections, gluing boards and creating a budget. As they fill up one space, they move to another. They have covered the kitchen counters, the dining room table, the entry floor and the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen.

But what surprised me most, when I came out this morning, is that I left a few dishes in the sink from two days ago. There is a load in the dryer that is most likely permanently wrinkled, and the shoes I took off Tuesday night or maybe Monday night are still laying in the living room. Those are things don’t usually linger for so long, but someone else’s mess allowed me to abdicate my responsibility. I saw only their scraps, clutter, Sonic cups, print outs, and mess, but not my own.

It makes me wonder about other areas of my life where I am slacking or abdicating my responsibility because someone else’s mess is the bigger problem. Am I feeding those situations in a negative way?

If I join a group of friends who are moaning about a bad situation, do I join in and pile on? If the guy at the gas station wasn’t nice to me, do I snap right back and justify my own bad behavior? Have I become blind to issues and people because their mess is usual, normal, or not my responsibility?

I am afraid I have. And what worries me most is that the shoes and laundry and dishes can be taken care of in a few minutes. But what about the people I have impacted?

  • The grumpy gas station guy I may never see again.
  • The relationship that I damaged because I didn’t start it, she did.
  • The problem I could have solved, but instead I ignored or made worse.

This isn’t about fixing other people. It is, however, about taking responsibility for how my actions and attitude impact the world around me. I am to be salt and light, not vinegar and a wet blanket.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Matthew 5:13

That means that whatever my sphere of influence is, I have a responsibility to impact others in a positive way. It is not necessary to correct the group complaining, but I can change the subject or not participate and walk away. It’s not my job to fix whatever is going on with the man at the gas station. It is my job to be kind.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

It is my responsibility to open my eyes and see others with love and respect. It is my job to shed enough light to glorify my Father in heaven which, in turn, gives us glimpses of God in the every day. The apostle John put it this way:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

1John 4:11-12

So today I will focus on adding salt, love, and light to the people and problems I see around me. And I will look for God abiding in me and others. How about you?

Oh, and I am also going to pick up a few things around the house, and if you see my husband wearing a wrinkled t-shirt this weekend, just pretend you didn’t notice.

Originally Published Spring 2013

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