When I look at what we've been living for the past at-least-a-year, I'm hard-pressed to think it's been anything but a page or two from the Book of Job.
This year, our Lent started early. And, five weeks after Easter, it isn't over yet. It's been four months since our house caught on fire, and no, we're not back home yet. In fact, the reconstruction work has only just now begun.
We've moved three times, and our stuff is scattered across the State of Massachusetts. That's no exaggeration. Our things are currently at a specialized dry cleaners (Woburn), an electronic and appliance service (Hopkinton), a professional art cleaner (Newton), a re-upholsterer (Lynn), the house we're renting (Winchester), and a climate controlled storage room (Lynn).
Of course the rest of life doesn't stop just because you had a house fire, either. Families continue to have their challenges, people get injured or sick, cars need new brakes, and the career that used to be what he loved to do isn't anymore.
Have you noticed? Life is messy. Really messy. Our lives are filled with things that don't work (and maybe never have), don't fit (and maybe never did), and don't match who or where we are. (Remember those 70's hairstyles? What were we thinking?) It isn't just a matter of clutter or even dirt. It's often mud deep enough to sink into and drown in.
When I look at what we've been living for the past at-least-a-year, I'm hard-pressed to think it's been anything but a page or two from the Book of Job. We've been overwhelmed by loss and struggle. We're exhausted by trying to keep afloat. We've become frustrated and annoyed by glitches and paperwork and bureaucratic processes. And, we're anxious about the next disaster that might be headed our way. I think the thing every one of us most wants to know is when all this will end.
And yet, I'm certain that is not at all how God sees it. God didn't plan for our house to be filled with smoke. He planned to remodel our house with new carpeting and paint and even a few extras! God did not want us to suffer losses or lose track of our possessions; he wanted to free us from them. God did not desire that we struggle continually; he willed for us to find his grace in prayer. God didn't intend to keep Andrew stuck in a stressful job; he gave Andrew the chance to move into doing work he truly loves. God didn't want us to be alarmed about taking a pay cut; he wants to show us how he is going to take care of us.
Life doesn't just fall into place. It isn't black and white, or straight lines, or pieces that fit neatly together. But there is mercy in the mess. There is abundant grace in taking up the cross. None, however, can be found in laying it down, walking past it, or pawning it off on somebody else.
That doesn't mean that carrying the cross is any easier. Let's face it, we wouldn't even call it a cross if it were manageable. But God does not give us crosses to bear because he hopes that they will crush us. God gives us crosses because he wants to save us.
I'm not quite there yet, but on a good day I can see the possibility that mercy isn't just in the mess, but that mercy might just be the mess itself. Someday, maybe after we actually do move back home, I'll be able to thank God for the fire, the struggles, the exhaustion, the losses, the instability, and the many changes that have come our way this year. If I can, it will be because I've learned to see this life as God sees it. Life's tribulations and calamities may not feel, look, sound, smell, or taste like mercy, but they may in fact be mercy, nonetheless.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.