It gets messy before it gets better. I know this to be true in my own life, although in the midst of messy moments I can most certainly lose sight of that wisdom. Just this week a parishioner came into our office wing and saw the Space Refresh renovations for the first time. They were delighted, but it made me realize how quickly I had forgotten the instability of the process along the way—the weeks of disruption and chaos we endured this summer as walls came down and flooring was replaced to make possible what we enjoy today. And since we’re in the messy midst of some house projects as I write this, it is a good reminder that soon enough the disruption will be a distant memory!
The truth that things get messy before they get better is the foundation for our Christian tradition: death and resurrection is the assertion that when what is now is broken open, disrupted, it makes way for the what is to be that we cannot yet even fathom. And this truth is not simply about our physical death. It is the wisdom that enlightens our hearts with hope and courage to live through the endless changes inherent in living life as human beings. For we, along with all creation, are undergoing constant change the whole of our lives long.
During particularly chaotic times I’ve even posted on my mirror, where I could read it every day, the following poem by one of my favorite people, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, excerpted from Hearts on Fire
If we are alive, we are going through countless deaths and resurrections. Over and over, we experience seasons in our lives coming to an end, whether we desired them to or not, each time making room for a new season to unfold. More often than not, this ongoing transformation is imperceptible to us, until we look back at who we were at different points along the way. But whether or not we’re aware of it along the way, the process always contains some stages of instability and messiness.
In Lent, we are invited to embrace with God this process of transformation and growth that is already under way in us. Look for the new Lenten Seasons outlining ways St. Simon’s can provide support for your journey.
Hope to see you Sunday,