My little girl crawled behind me as I ran into the kitchen to grab a piece of bread to give her for an improvised breakfast. I wanted to keep running—from my own stench. But I supposed I should return to my surprise guests who caught me finishing up an early morning workout.
My 3-year-old son saw the bread and wanted one, too. So, I excused myself again to get one for him, looking longingly at the bathroom—its promise of cleanliness calling out to me.
I returned, and smiled, though the sweat rings were still wet on my t-shirt, and my hair was plastered all greasy and sweaty on my head. I racked my brain for the polite thing to do in this culture. Excuse myself for 10 minutes so I could shower and just hope the kids don’t cry and pound on the bathroom door like they often do? Excuse myself for five minutes to change into the more appropriate long pants and long-sleeved shirt, and run a comb through my hair? Excuse myself for 30 seconds to go scream my embarrassment in a locked room?
But nothing felt right and they didn’t teach me what to do with 7 a.m. visitors in language school. And so I sat in my smelliness, hoping my guests had stuffed noses.
They must not have minded because they stayed for a couple of hours and we had one of the best conversations I’ve had since moving to Indonesia six years ago. Though we differ in our religions, we talked about beliefs and life and struggles and faith.
To be completely honest, even when I get a shower in, I spend my days here messy. Sweaty from the relentless tropical humidity. Covered in spit-up or sticky granola or flour from making bread. Confused at words I don’t yet know. Annoyed at something that goes wrong, then annoyed that I’m annoyed since I really want to face all this with grace.
My kids are sometimes fussy, or rude, or just shy. And I am sometimes fussy, and rude or just shy. And though some cultural stress eases as the years pass, I have managed to counter balance that with extra challenges of having kids, and therefore, multiplying all that mess.
And yet… when I learn to serve out of the messiness and receive the grace I wish I always gave, I live the Gospel Truth in its purest essence. When I open my home up to others, even when dinner is boiling over on the stove, I am demonstrating the importance of relationship over works. When I share my struggles, my own heartbreaks with those whose own souls hurt daily, I show the need we all have for a Heart Healer. When I act from my own sin, then return, humbly seeking forgiveness, I seek what I want to offer others—a second chance…and a third one and a fourth.
And I pray that His aroma overcomes my own stench; His grace shows through my need; and His plan is made perfect despite, and maybe just maybe, through all my messiness.
What does messiness look like in your life? What has it looked like for you to strive to continue to serve from the mess?
Rebecca Hopkins lives in Indonesia with her handsome Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot hubby and two cute kids. She blogs about Living for More in a World of Less at www.borneowife.blogspot.com .