Friday, February 27, 2015

when your mess is exposed

I rode behind the truck for at least five miles before I realized it.  The conversation with my friend on the other end of the phone had me so captivated that I wasn't paying attention to what was happening.  When the wet streaks began hitting my windshield I turned on the wipers assuming it was the snow they had predicted.  It sure was messier than any snow I remembered, but...whatever.

When I finally noticed the giant sprayers on the back of the bright yellow truck directly in front of me, it dawned on me - this might not be snow.  And, in fact, it was not.  It was salt.  And by this point the entire front end of my minivan was covered.  Good grief.  I am an idiot.


The good news was - the messiness of the exterior of my car now matched the messiness of the interior of my car.  I'd be willing to bet there are not many people on the road today who can look around and find themselves surrounded by a scooter, random food containers, cans of paint, tools, candlesticks, coats, shoes, a lone dog slipper, a bathroom vanity light, dozens of coloring books, stray markers, and piles of trash.
I can.

It's an analogy for my life really.
There is usually a mess on the inside that needs cleaning up but I keep the outside presentable.
You know the drill...
You take a shower,
put on cute clothes
speak nice words
and everyone thinks - she really is great.
Then something pushes me over the edge and I can't keep up the outward appearance anymore.  I don't have time for a shower.  I forget to brush my teeth.  None of my clothes look cute so I opt for yoga pants and my words go from nice to nasty.  Everyone sees me for who I really am - far from pretty and perfect.

But sometimes it's a relief, isn't it?  To admit that you have your struggles just like everyone else.  To concede that you can't be strong and nice and even clean all the time.

It happened to me last night.

After a long day of hard work and unmet expectations and stir crazy kids, my mess was exposed.  I showed up to dinner with the rest of my family wearing dirty jeans and a sweatshirt and a greasy head of hair.  I couldn't find any proper shoes for Lucy so she walked through the icy puddles in the parking lot wearing flip flops.  I was short and abrupt with Joey and the kids.  And you can only imagine what happened when the waitress forgot one of our entrees and it was 30 minutes late coming out {okay...maybe it was three minutes late but it seemed like 30}!

I felt the ugly anger boiling up inside of me and as much as I tried to suppress, it came seeping out right onto our poor waitress.  After I made my frustration known to her she didn't apologize but tried to make some excuse and turned around and walked off.  The nerve!  It was about to be explosion time for me.  And you want to talk about 'not pretty'?  Oh boy.

I forced myself to close my eyes and silently offer a breath of a prayer that could have been translated:
Help!  I don't want to rub my ugly mess all over this poor woman or my family but I can't clean it up right now.  It's too big of a job and I'm running on too little fumes.  Take the mess of me away so that I can be filled with the grace of You.

In response I received a simple order.
Apologize.
Well that was the LAST thing I wanted to do.  What I really wanted to do was ask to speak to the manager or write a nasty review.  As our waitress returned to the table I could tell she was hardened towards me.  I did that to her.  She wouldn't make eye contact or smile.  She just sat the plate on the table and in that moment I made myself follow the order.

I just want to apologize to you.
Only the first few words had to be choked out.  The rest flowed out of my mouth like water.  Cleansing water.
I am so sorry if I came across as frustrated and angry earlier.  We've had a long day and I'm tired and I shouldn't have taken it out on you.
And she wouldn't let me finish before she interrupted with her own apology and her soft, kind eyes.  And in an instant the mess was cleaned up.  The one on the outside and the inside.  A few minutes later she returned with a coupon for a free meal.

In that place
where I stop striving and start surrendering
where I let go of pride and grab hold of humility
where I offer up my weakness in exchange for His strength
the mess I've been carrying is wiped clean.

Yours is too.

Now if only it were that simple with my car...