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Messy Families

There is a new movement in faith communities around the world called ‘Messy Church”. The heartbeat of this ministry is to create a space where families of all ages can grow, learn and be together. The environment created is often messy with craft, games, food, noise, and many interactive activities for all age to engage in. It is acceptable and fun to make a MESS together. This is often a more comfortable environment to bring people into to meet than more traditional church experiences. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a BIG fan of these types of gatherings and in fact I am usually the one making most of the mess or instigating the ideas that create the MESS.

It is funny how MESS in this context is not only accepted, but expected, but when it comes to family MESS we are very good at covering it up. Let’s face it, if we are honest FAMILY LIFE can be some of the messiest places and I am not just talking about the physical mess of a home. Yet, one of the greatest challenges in living in an intergenerational faith community has been the people that come and leave because..... honestly they find it too confronting to actually be a part of a community where others might see that parts of their lives are a MESS. In a smaller faith community this is not as easy to hide as it is in a larger community. We try so hard to HIDE our struggles, our dysfunction, our imperfections. Sunday mornings has become the place where Christians can be guilty of putting their best clothes on, their best happy face and their best behaviour ensuring everyone only sees the good bits. I have watched hurting families who feel that when things get really MESSY the first place they must pull away from is their “Faith Community”. They fear what people will think or how they will be treated. What saddens me most is that we are so conditioned by this that our goals for our worship experiences can become more about creating an environment where the truth can be hidden and masked, rather than creating an environment where the MESS can be shared, restored, supported and listened to. I want to ask is this TRUE community?

When I look at the families in the Bible, I love that they don’t try to mask or hide anything. All the dysfunction, the lies, the deceit, the pain and the forgiveness and healing is all out there for all to see. Have you ever thought while you are reading, “OMG, how did YOU ever get into the BIBLE?!” But then quickly say, “But I am so glad you are there, to remind me that I am not the only one who makes a MESS!”

Let’s start at Genesis. Fathers switching brides on the wedding night (Genesis 29:23), Fathers sleeping with multiple woman (Genesis 29-30), children cheating, lying and stealing from each other (Genesis 27:35), mothers favouring one child over another and scheming for them to take something that is not theirs (Genesis 27: 13), wife’s deceiving husbands (Genesis 27:42-46), brothers plotting to kill their brother (Genesis 37:18), husbands pretending they are not married so they protect themselves from being killed (Genesis 12:11-20), Generations repeating the same hurtful behaviour over and over again and this is just the chosen ones, God’s people destined to fulfil God’s purposes here on earth. This is not the latest Hollywood sitcom, this is the BIBLE. This is real and this is MESSY! You don’t have to scrape very deep to know that the same pain and hurt is riddled within families today but we have just become very good at hiding it.

So you may be wondering is there a happy ending to this? Where are you going with this Tammy? Well, for me there is so much comfort in knowing that from the beginning of time people have always made MESSY mistakes and from the beginning of time families have been MESSY. Yes, I do find comfort in the fact that there is no PERFECT family. But I find even greater comfort in the fact that from the beginning of time God has always had a plan. That He uses MESSY families in mighty ways and that it is often IN the MESS that HE is glorified and HIS purposes are fulfilled.

So my big question is why do we continue to hide and mask the MESS? Why do we run from God and Christian community when the MESS hits? Why do only parents who are doing OK go to parenting seminars and not the ones that could really do with some support? Why, when we feel like a MESS do we feel we have to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is OK? When I feel like a MESS as parent, why do I retreat and think that I can’t be in ministry if I can’t get my own family matters correct? If this was the TRUTH then ABRAHAM, ISAAC, JACOB, JOSEPH, DAVID and the list goes on......don’t deserve to be used by God either!

Maybe we need to get MESSIER, more REAL, and more HONEST. Maybe then the world would see my God who gives me daily strength to serve and follow Him and to be the kind of parent, wife, daughter, aunty and friend He desires me to be. They will see that He is one that can walk with them too, EVEN IN THE MESS.

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