On Messiness

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By Catherine Gilmore

I grew up around a lot of nice shiny depictions of the Crucifixion. I think a lot of us probably did. There was the one where Christ’s pristine stainless steel body was mounted above the door frame or the varnished wood one with Jesus’ ceramic corpse painted in peachy tones. As a kid, I would gaze at the Renaissance paintings where Jesus’ lifeless body looks nearly perfect, save for a few small dripping wounds in His hands and feet. The blood was barely a trickle. In church, I would stare at the tall blue and red window that let the early morning rays illuminate His ultimate sacrifice. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these depictions of the Crucifixion. In fact, they are a beautiful way to draw our minds and hearts to prayerful contemplation. I think sacred art should be aesthetically pleasing and simultaneously be accurate in its representation of the holy content it is portraying. I believe in splendid and moving representations of holy things. I am not saying that we must dive recklessly into the grotesque. And the grotesque may not be what actually leads our hearts to prayer anyway. But I think we need to acknowledge the reality of the Crucifixion: it was messy. I mean really and truly messy. His holy body was tortured and cruelly ripped apart. His healing hands were gruesomely punctured and His blood spilled out everywhere. It was not pretty. It was not nice or shiny and it was far from clean or pristine. It was utterly and savagely messy. 

But in this life saving mess, I think our Savior is trying to teach us something. He wants to show us that He is not afraid of messiness. He chose to save us in a very messy manner. Life is messy. Redemption is messy. And He is not afraid of any of it. He, more than anyone else, understands how harsh and how broken this world can be. We can bring him our ugliness and our chaos and all of our messiness and He won’t flinch. He has experienced it all and is continuing to experience with us, in each and every daily trial. He has redeemed us through messiness and perfect, unexplainable Love. And He will redeem our mess too. His love will transform our messiness into redemption. Jesus Christ can do that. 

So bring Him your messy heart, bring Him all the tangles and knots. Bring Him the wounds, the grime, the dirt, the painful fleshy parts that make even you uncomfortable. Bring Him the doubt and the heartache. Bring him the shattered pieces, the fear, the darkness, the cold. Bring Him the hurt and the rejection. Bring him the despair and the anxiety. Set your messy and broken heart before Him. Look up at His holy and messy body and know that He will redeem all things. Because being a Savior is what He does best.