A few days ago I reflected on the death of Rich Mullins 25 years ago and shared thoughts from Tish Harrison Warren when she wrote about the impact of Rich Mullins. There was a lot of interaction from that post from friends who remembered how Rich Mullins’ music impacted them as well.
One comment was to recommend a book, Messy Spirituality, by Mike Yaconelli. I downloaded the book and two paragraphs in I was a hot mess in a puddle of tears.
Here is what I know in my own life about spiritual growth (and Yaconelli reflects on this as a reminder to me): I can get the mechanics down. Prayer… check. Bible study… check. Community… check. The list is always standard. I can check it off. And I need those practices of formation in my life!
But, I cannot reduce my spiritual life to the mechanics. This is my frustration. I can do the mechanics and in a matter of hours forget everything I had tried to meditate on just hours before. I meditated on gentleness… and by the end of the day I have blown up at someone saying something to me I didn’t “get.”
I think of the radical love of God toward me, and by noon I’ve felt bitterness toward someone else!
What I cannot get around is the both/and of spiritual life. I keep going in the mechanics because that spiritual scaffolding is necessity… AND, my journey will be rough. I will climb and fall back down the hill. I will wade into a river and find myself caught in the current before I get to the other side.
In my pursuit of God I fine this mix of doing the right stuff and struggling with emotions and actions all at the same time.
As Yaconelli put it: “…it’s a wild search for God in the tangled jungle of our souls, a search which involves a volatile mix of messy reality, wild freedom, frustrating stuckness, increasing slowness, and a healthy dose of gratitude.”
What keeps me at this mess? Passion. I truly want to follow Jesus. I’m crazy about him. I am desperate to fully know him and the wildness of my life is there as well. It’s a both/and life.
“Spiritual growth thrives in the midst of our problems, not in their absence.”
Desiring to grow means the risk of failure. It’s a mess to embrace… not perfect.