What if the mess is a good thing?

It’s always messier before the masterpiece shows. {Image credit: ccaetano / 123RF Stock Photo}

Teetering on the edge of the sink, I stretch to reach those top corners with my paintbrush. I wipe the sweat off my forehead and replace it with a smear of Spring Creek blue.

She walks in, big curious eyes. “Mom, can I help?” 

“No,” Comes out too fast.

Why can’t she help? I wonder.

Because she’d make a mess.

But this is a BATHroom. The paint isn’t going to hurt anything. 

And so the arguing with myself continues. 

Why is it so hard to let the messes in life happen a little? To maybe even enjoy them?? Today’s guest post by my friend, Eileen Knowles digs in to this question and offers a fresh perspective on loving life in the mess. 


A Colorful Mess

When my son was younger he hated getting his hands dirty. I remember the first couple of times we tried to finger paint. I would show him what to do and then he would try it. He would apprehensively swirl his tiny finger around the page. As he pushed the paint around, I would watch his little face. With his nose shriveled up and his mouth twisted into a grimace, he would look up at me.

He would show me his dirty finger as if to say…“Why are we getting our hands dirty? Would you please clean this off of me, Mom.” For the longest time, he couldn’t bring himself to stick more than the tip of one finger into the paint.

This memory prompted the following thought:

Sometimes, Lord, that’s the way we serve You…with one timid, reluctant finger.

I often wonder if we miss the greatness of what God wants to do through us because, like my young son did, we’re silently still asking ourselves “Why do I want to get my hands dirty?”

We settle for serving Him half-heartedly. We stick with the techniques that are convenient for us. We agree to do the projects that require minimal mess and are quick and easy to clean up. We gravitate toward the opportunities that we can contain on a single page. We don’t want to attempt anything that might splatter and disrupt the other areas in our lives.

However, if we desire to mature in our faith and in our walk with Christ, we eventually must move beyond the simplistic and safe one finger approach to life and onto things that are more challenging. In order to grow, in order to create a masterpiece, in order for our life’s art to make a difference, we have to be willing to take some artistic risks. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty.

And Jesus is our perfect example of an Artist who is willing to do this. Jesus doesn’t settle for the minimal mess approach. Jesus heads straight toward the complicated, the risky, the bold, and the questionable art.

Jesus is constantly choosing to create something beautiful out of things considered messy, hopeless, and ugly.  I like to think that if Jesus were to finger paint, he would be up to his elbows in paint…stunning colors would be thrown everywhere. His finished product would be one joy-filled, beautiful mess.

If there is any one who is guilty of painting outside the lines…it is Jesus.

What the world has a tendency to wad up, throw away in the trash can and call junk, Jesus has a tendency to dig back out, smooth out the wrinkles, and hang it up on His fridge to admire.

And we are called to live our lives the same way. We are called to step into the mess and see the beautiful and breath-taking masterpiece underneath the dirt and grime.

I don’t want to settle for the safe one finger approach to life. I want to spend my limited days on this earth making art with both hands.  Art that will grow me and stretch me into the artist that the Master Artist can use to decorate the walls of His Kingdom.


Eileen Knowles is a small town Arizona girl who studied English at The University of Arizona a long, long time ago. She now lives in small town North Carolina with her husband, Roger, their eight-year old son, and one quirky dog named Bisbee. When she is not working part-time loving on animals at the local animal hospital, she thoroughly enjoys drinking coffee, running, playing Scrabble, leading Women’s Bible Study at her church, and writing about how cool it is to journey through life with Jesus holding her hand. Eileen is passionate about leaving a legacy for her son and encouraging others along the way who might need a dose of hope poured into their weary lives. You can find her taking The Scenic Route at www.eileenknowles.com or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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    • says

      So glad to have you. This is such a timely topic with all the holiday crazy that goes on. Life gets messy ’round this time of year. Good reminder to be willing to intentionally invest in the mess we’re called to!