How Can A Bad Mess Be A Good Thing?

The NYC marathon cancelled.

The NYC subway system partially underwater.

Power outages and gas shortages.

Free fuel but long lines to get your 10-gallon gift.






I know. I know. This is all so last week. Haven’t I heard there’s been an election since the storm?

Why, yes, I have. And I voted.

But I don’t write about politics.

I write about community in Christ.

For me, Hurricane Sandy teaches a great deal more about community [see “Point Pleasant Beach Football Players … Help Community Clean Up”] than Election Day 2012. Note I began with “For me …”

The perfect storm provides the messy conditions necessary for growing community.

Jon Gordon in his “Hurricane Heroes” newsletter wrote:

I read that the most frequent posts on social media the last few days were “Are you okay?” “What do you need?” and “How can I help?”

I’ve heard stories of families talking again, people knocking on their neighbor’s doors for the first time in years to see if they are alright and countless volunteers distributing food and clothing to those in need.

Here’s a thought based on the super storm that blew across the east coast, devastated entire cities, and made thousands awfully uncomfortable.

Crisis creates community in ways comfort never could.

You don’t need a Hurricane Sandy for a crisis to arise. It happens when a buck hits your car (I know from experience). It happens when the boss asks you to step into her office. It happens when you get a call from the doctor … or the police … or your child (my father with six kids has more experience on this one) … or your spouse.

It happens at home, at work, on the road, and in the church.

So why does a mess offer possibility for growth in community?

Because …

Crisis clears the clutter. The distractions seem to fade when the power goes out. A few candles and a good book to read to the family replace the television noise, surfing the Internet, and outside phone calls.

Crisis creates a laser focus. When a police officer said, “You need to get to the hospital as soon as possible; your son was involved in an accident,” I dropped everything else and focused on the one necessary thing, being with my injured son (he survived without any permanent damage).

Crisis couples you with unlikely partners. A New York City driver asked a stranger on the street, “Are you headed downtown?” That exchange resulted in several folks, each previously unknown to the others, carpooling together. The ride offered time for strangers to become friends.

Is this idea of messes creating community even biblical?

When the Israelites endured slavery in Egypt, was that messy?

What about forty years of wandering in the wilderness? Was that messy?

The disciples following Jesus around for three years, did that ever get messy?

The night Jesus was betrayed, denied, and arrested, anything messy about those dark hours?

The early church (the one we so often want to get back to—“We just need to be a New Testament church.”), did it ever have messes?

And in all of those situations—Israel, the Twelve, the early church—did community grow out of the mess?

So here’s the bottom line, the takeaway for your life in Christian community:

Embrace your messes wherever you find them.

Use those messy moments to grow.

I’m curious. What is your experience with messes and growing in community?

Recommended links:

Carol McClain’s “Keep Company”

Jon Acuff’s “Why Are Christians Such Jerks?” (A surprising conclusion)

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox.

About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
This entry was posted in Community, Lessons from Nature and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Can A Bad Mess Be A Good Thing?

  1. Kari Scare says:

    If we are authentic and if we “obey the law of Christ” by bearing each other’s burdens (note that this also means sharing your burdens so this law CAN be obeyed), then we can grow as a Christian community as we struggle through messes together. I’ve obeyed this and not obeyed this command, and obedience is by far better. Not only did I get through my struggle more quickly and with greater victory, but my relationships were strengthened too.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Messes seem to level the playing field so that the “sharing your burdens” becomes a mutual act. In other words, if we’re all in the mess together, we must depend on what each person brings to survive and even flourish under harsh conditions. A give-and-take attitude recognizes I have some strengths to share and some weaknesses to address through the strength of others.

      • Kari Scare says:

        Very true. We all have weaknesses and we all have strenghts that we bring to the body, just like our various body parts each have strengths and weaknesses. Also, the various parts that are stronger when used with other parts. I also am so aware of how weak parts can become stronger as they work in conjunction with stronger parts.

  2. tnealtarver says:

    And it’s nice when the Lord lets us see where we fit in all this mess. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s