By Katie Helmreich
There’s a special sort of beauty in the midst of a mess. I’m a fairly tidy person. I like to keep things organized as much as is reasonable in a family of five. But making messes, working through them, and then reigning them in again is just part of living!
Embracing the mess comes naturally in some situations. The smell of freshly baked coffee cake more than makes up for the sink overflowing with mixing bowls and measuring cups. At some point a desk mounded with receipts, invoices, and bank statements will become a neat and tidy accounting report. Paint buckets, step ladders, and tarps make it hard to walk around for a while, but the fresh coat of paint on the walls will transform the room!
The mess is an important part of the process. It won’t stay messy forever.
When we’re familiar with the flow of a project, and remember the stages of barely contained chaos that we’ve conquered in the past, it’s easier to persevere through the current disaster. We know that the goal makes it all worth it! But venturing out to try something new? Those messy stages are a lot scarier.
Which “messes” mean I need to start over? And which messes do I need to power through? Is this normal? Their end result looks amazing! Am I just totally inept?
Confidence fizzles. What did I get myself into?? I never should have started this…
Lately, I’ve been making time to focus on growing as an artist again. At first I looked up a bunch of inspiration examples and just tried to recreate them. It did not go well. It’s nearly impossible to look at a completed anything and recreate it unless you’re already well versed in how it’s done. Talk about discouraging…
So instead I’ve been taking a lot of online art class videos. I love watching the artwork develop one step at a time. Some stages look like absolute chaos! But the artist gradually pulls it all together, adding a little here or there, reworking this bit, emphasizing that. My favorite teachers often comment, “It’s going to look pretty strange at this point, and that’s OK; just keep going.”
I learn most when the teacher makes mistakes and talks though how they fix them. I loved hearing one calmly comment, “Hmmm… I regret that burnt sienna… but it’s alright; I’ll let it dry and fix it later. Just keep going. Persevere.”
It’s been incredibly liberating to have these reminders that everybody, even the professionals, work through these messy stages.
But it looks like trash! Is that normal? Yes. Persevere. It’s all part of the process.
The mess isn’t limited to art, baking, or bookkeeping. We all lead messy lives.
- Surely, I should have learned to be more patient by now.
- Why am I still struggling to trust?
- I thought I’d really let go of my bitterness over that situation, but its overwhelming me yet again…
- I really dropped the ball that time.
- I know I’m called to this place and for this purpose, but…
- I’m making a total mess of this.
- I thought by now I’d have figured these things out.
It looks like trash… is that normal? Yes. Persevere. It’s all part of the process.
For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
God’s handiwork. God’s creation. God’s gift of faith. God’s plan. God’s purpose. Other translations use words like masterpiece and workmanship!
The Artist knows His craft. The Holy Spirit gradually pulls it all together, adding a little here or here, reworking this bit, emphasizing that.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches in his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)
Our Master Craftsman, in tender mercy, assures us, “It’s going to look pretty strange at this point, and that’s OK; just keep going.”
Layer by layer, step by step, the Spirit works within each of us, transforming our hearts and deepening our faith in ways that at times look like barely controlled chaos. It’s a process. But our Creator leads us on this path of discipleship, using each messy stage to reveal His glory all the more brightly! So take heart in the liberating truth of God’s grace! It may look like trash right now, but…
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
I love the opportunity to see how artwork transforms along the way. I’m noticing that many of the pieces I was most frustrated with, were actually just not quite finished. Persevere! Press on until it all comes together; problem solve, learn, and grow.
Perhaps you’d enjoy practicing the process, learning how to draw a Pentecost tongue of fire like I’ll be doing with my small group this week? Give it a try, remembering all the while that you are God’s masterpiece: a work in progress, transformed by grace, to reveal the glory of God!
Encourage those around you by sharing your own mistakes and mishaps! Share the joy you find in embracing the process, resting in God’s promise to complete the work the Spirit has begun in you, even if it all looks like a mess right now.
You can click on the image below to download a PDF of the directions and give it a go. The end product isn’t the point. Give yourself plenty of permission to try and fail. Then, persevere! You are practicing how to embrace the process.