Sometimes you’ve got to make a mess to improve the situation.
My son got a mini Rubik’s Cube earlier in the year. Before long he got pretty good at getting half of it done- but could never complete it. This week however, with a bit of guidance, he finally solved it.
Life can be a bit like a Rubik’s Cube. With a bit of effort and perseverance, we get things working well enough. There’s a few pieces out of place, but we live with that, because to sort those issues out means a lot of rearranging and complication.
Maybe you’re in a season that feels a bit jumbled. You’re waiting for the pieces to fall into place. For things to start making sense.
When I go out running, the best, most exciting runs involve finding new routes- new ways of getting places. To a certain extent, you can plan to find these unexplored tracks by looking at a map. But the best trails can’t be seen on a map. They need to be found on foot.
Likewise, to find the best in life, we need to combine both knowledge and faith.
These tracks remain undiscovered for most. It takes courage to follow a trail when you don’t know where it will lead. You might have to turn back. You may get lost. It could turn out to be a waste of time and energy.
And there usually comes a point where the track becomes very difficult and overgrown- a place where turning back feels like it’ll be the best option. Yet, I’ve found that often, this is the moment right before breakthrough- one last push and you’re out.
It’s then you realise where you are and can see how all that came before makes sense.
Exploring a new path
I’m stepping out in faith a bit next year. After 11 years of teaching, I’m taking leave to explore a new path. I anticipate there’ll be disruption and times of wondering what I was thinking.
Leaving a secure job could be seen as reckless.
But I think, that while we shouldn’t go down every side-trail we see, we shouldn’t ignore that nagging pull towards something that fits better.
Like cleaning out the top shelf of your cupboard or pulling out the Christmas decorations, mess is a necessary part of achieving anything worthwhile.
But it should also be temporary.
Battling through muck endlessly for no reason- without a goal in sight, is not something to celebrate. There needs to be a purpose, a destination and a light at the end.
So in some ways, where you are right now is not so important as where you’re wanting to get to. Jumbling your life up or taking a blind detour for the sake of it won’t end up well. What keeps us going on the right track is the glimpse of a brighter future.
So when you end up in the wilderness, either by choice or circumstances beyond your control, it becomes a positive place when you’re fixing your attention on getting to that better place.
Those that know the feeling of the last piece finally falling into place, or achieving the hope, that for so long seemed a long way off, will tell you that it was all worth it.
Don’t let the mess deter you from chasing the vision for how things could be.
And don’t confuse short-term stillness for peace. Ignoring problems may keep everybody happy for a while, but will usually end in explosive disaster.
Instead, choose to plough through the struggle and nagging doubts with courage and integrity. Even if it means a period of deconstructing all that seemed stable... if not quite right.
Tom Anderson is pioneering www.haventogether.com, an online church plant supported by his in-person church, Catalyst, Ipswich. He has a young, growing family and enjoys playing backyard sport. Tom is a keen long-distance runner, averaging 21km each day last year. He has worked as a teacher for eleven years and enjoys perfecting a flat white on his home espresso machine. Tom would welcome a visit for a coffee some time… or an online catch-up via Zoom. See the Haven Together website to get in touch.