M is for MESSY
Messy happens when we risk, experiment and innovate. Sometimes messy is part of attempting great things for God.
Last spring, I visited a friend and his wife at their mountain home above Taos, N.M. They live almost 9,000 feet above sea level, with minimal light pollution from large cities. We stepped outside about 10 p.m. As our eyes began adjusting to the darkness, the stars came into view.
About a minute later, they really came into view. Thousands upon thousands filled the sky, horizon to horizon, as bright as I've ever seen them. It took some searching to locate familiar constellations like the Big Dipper — not because their stars were hard to see, but because so many more-distant stars shone behind them.
Sights like that make us think big thoughts. David wrote in Psalms: "The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship." (Psalm 19:1 NLT.)
I don't think anyone ever looked at a starry sky and thought, "What a mess." Yet in a way, that's exactly what it is: a wonderful, cosmic mess that shows off God's infinite creativity. What if all those stars were visible in perfect rows, exactly the same distance apart? Would God seem even greater? More organized? Or just more predictable?
Now think about a much smaller scene. My 4-year-old granddaughter — who bears the image of her Creator — loves to play with Lego blocks. She'll build houses, castles, cars, rockets. Her creative process leaves Legos strewn from one end of the house to the other. I love that, but when I come into the room, my first thought is still: What a mess.
The most innovative people, businesses and ministries learn to defeat that default approach, the one that says: Go ahead. Come up with something great. But don't make a mess. Don't do anything that would upset our stockholders or donors. Certainly don't risk public failure.
But that's exactly the behavior that changes the world. The greatest innovations are called disruptive. They upset the existing order, making a mess of what we thought we knew. They require us to adapt or be left behind.
Johannes Gutenberg's printing press disrupted a mostly illiterate culture, ultimately making the Bible accessible. The Church — and the world — would never be the same.
A man named Bernie May founded the Seed Company and disrupted everything we thought we knew about translating Scripture into every known language. The goal that we thought would take at least another 150 years now lies within this generation's reach.
And on one particular starry night, an encounter with angels made a complete mess of everything a bunch of shepherds ever knew.
May we embrace creative messiness as a gift — and an attribute — of an infinitely creative God.
Jim Killam is story director for the Seed Company, a Wycliffe Bible Translators Affiliate, in Arlington, Texas.