It was my sophomore year of high school when my parents bought our first real home, a home that we would call ours. And there was a room for me. My very own space that was not borrowed or temporary.
For most of my childhood, I was a military brat — a term meant to identify those children whose parents were in any branch of the military. To me, it meant that I moved every three years. It also meant there was not much I could call my own.
You see, I never had the opportunity to settle in. To get comfortable. My life was unintentionally forged in the depths of restlessness.
When we moved into our new house, the very first thing I set out to do was create the perfect space. I drew layouts on scratch paper and planned color schemes. Out of breath, I repeatedly pushed bedroom furniture around, attempting to make things fit.
Finally, the weekend to paint my room came, and I invited my best friend over to help. We opened the window, cranked the radio, and went to work. We danced, sang, talked, vented, and laughed while painting. Hours later, we proudly looked at our finished work and walked down to the nearby ice cream shop for a mini celebration. We were covered in paint, but we could not have cared less.
After all that effort, I thought I would be content with the final result.
And I was — for a while. A few months later, however, I became frustrated with the colors I chose. I stared at the walls with a longing to start over again. But I never had the opportunity to repaint those walls. Instead, my parents would often walk by my room and find me sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by rearranged furniture and other decorations, yet again.
This planning usually coincided with an aggressive round of purging. Throwing away notes, books, and other things I thought reflected a person I no longer was.
The paint in my room represented a season of my life. But really, I had entirely missed the point about what was actually important.
It wasn’t about the color of the walls or the placement of furniture. It wasn’t about the mess of objects that represented times passed, seasons over, and persons changed. It was, and always will be, about what took place in that room — about the friendship that was forged in the chaos and the figuring it all out.
We did more than paint walls, we settled into a holy work — paintbrush sharpening paintbrush.
Today, I find myself once again attempting to move things around. I start to purge what I think doesn’t fit or jive with who God is calling me to be. There are walls I want to repaint, rooms I am embarrassed of, and closets that are full of webs.
What I am learning is that the mess doesn’t matter as much as who I share it with. The space I am in doesn’t matter as much as the relationships I create in the process.
With so many choices and opportunities these days, we often get caught up in the “looks” of a thing — sometimes the church building or the Body of Christ itself. But the truth of the matter is that each of these are messy and in constant construction.
I am working on being generous with my messy spaces, being better at asking others to join me in the celebration of the imperfect and disordered. Not only that, I am working on making sure to throw on my paint-spattered clothes and hang out in their messy places, too. Maybe we pray or talk in-depth about where we are and do holy work. But maybe we also dance, sing, and just stay awhile.