I believe the best gifts in life come in unpredictable, and often messy, packages.
Organization has never been my strong suit. My mom nicknamed my bedroom the “Tornado Zone” throughout my adolescent years. I would argue, “Why should I clean when it’s just going to get messy again?” I still live within a certain level of organized chaos today. To me, things like socks stuck behind the dryer, toothpaste on the bathroom sink, and spaghetti-sauce stains on Tupperware are all reminders that I can’t control the world, and you know what? That’s fine. That’s great. That’s what makes life exciting.
The most difficult times in my life happened when I tried to force my life into order, to gain control, to limit myself. I loved my first semester of college—the freedom, the people I met, the unlimited amounts of soft-serve ice cream—all of it. After the initial whirlwind died down though, I began to struggle with the question, “Who am I?” I didn’t have a concrete answer, and the uncertainty made me feel vulnerable in a frightening way. I turned to Christianity seeking security, and I began to feel comfortable in the identity I created for myself, in the routines of church services and mission trips.
One summer, however, I decided to work at a summer camp for at-risk youth. The experience challenged me more than I had ever been challenged. The campers were difficult, to say the least. They threw scissors. They got into fist-fights. They had emotional scars no ten-year-old should have. My friendships with fellow staff confused me too. Most of the staff didn’t follow morals I had been taught were “right” or “good.” However, they often showed a deep, unconditional love—an authentic love, one that didn’t take any B.S. and didn’t wear a mask of false sweetness like much of the “Christian” love I had seen. During that summer, the world I had created and tried to control flipped around and stared me back in the face. It was extremely troubling, but it was also wonderful.
Since then, I try to stay open to possibilities rather than focus on absolutes. My beliefs are more fluid, shifting with every passing moment. The best way I can describe them is to compare them to wind. Wind is not defined by what it is but rather by its movements. Similarly, I’ve learned to become less preoccupied with who I am and instead focus on the fact that I am, that I exist. I breathe. I laugh. I cry. I eat an apple. I spend too many hours on facebook. Every moment of my existence is who I am.
I believe in embracing every aspect of life, including, and maybe even especially, the messes. If I drop a piece of food on the ground, I eat it anyway. Why? Because life has dirt. It has germs. It has risk, danger. And that’s ok. In fact, I believe that’s what makes life beautiful.