Growing up, my family was pretty loud and rambunctious. We held "colorful" conversations, to say the least. We loved hard, but we fought hard too. If there was a disagreement or hurt feelings, we hashed it out. The dining room table was sometimes more like a court room rather than a peaceful experience. Brushing it under the rug was never an option. My siblings, my parents, and I were willing to call each other out and lay it all out on the line. I specifically remember scrapping it out with my older brother in our home's front sitting room to the point where my perfectly gelled ballet bun ended up perched on top of my head like a raggedy bird's nest after a disagreement. We smiled, though, as if nothing happened when my parents came in and saw the aftermath. With three brothers, you usually hash it out by wrestling each other until someone yells for a parent, taps out, or you fart on each other. That's the truth, I'm just sayin'.
Once I experienced "Christianity" as an adult (I use that term loosely. Yes, both Christianity and adult), I began to change my habits. I swallowed my rebuttals and avoided conflict in my relationships. I viewed how I grew up as the wrong way and thought God didn't like messy and needed me to keep the peace with any and all people in my life. Brush it under the rug, bury it down, avoid the person, or any other people-pleasing tactic was my new view on interaction. My thoughts became, "God calls me to love. Love is only pretty. Love is only forgiving. Love is only pleasing and neat."
The problem with this way of thinking was it didn't coincide with reality. As I went along in life I experienced messy relationships. I was hurt by family members' choices, or disappointed in how friends treated me. And honestly, it left me just wanting to avoid it all. I lost faith in my instincts, or in the small voice deep inside that led me to press into these relationships and experience the yuck to get to the healing.
Within the last few years, I've endured some real struggle within relationships in my life. I've gone back and forth with my mom and dad after my parents' divorce, I didn't go to my brother's wedding after some hurt, I've grown resentful in some areas with others because I never spoke up, I've had some people dear to me drop me like a bad habit, and I continue to experience the truth that I'm a broken person surrounded by broken people.
Through all of the above, however, I've reached a point of sincere love. God has opened my eyes to the beauty in messy relationships. My family? We still love hard and fight hard. My friends? We're working through the hurt. Strangers? I'm free from the pressure of avoiding conflict like the plague in every single situation I encounter. God has opened my eyes through simple acknowledgement that these people and I just keep showing up. It may be through tears, or tensions, or hurt feelings, or angry words, or bittersweet silence...but eventually we all just keep showing up. One step at a time to keep interacting. That is the beauty in relationships. A friend recently referred to our friendship as "the blue sky that is always there no matter how stormy life gets." Ain't that the truth. People who stick out the storm are the best. We just have to see the gift from God that we experience within our relationships.
I'll leave you with this glimpse of the beauty within "a spicy family" which Jen Hatmaker speaks about in her book, For the Love, that I believe also applies to messy relationships:
"Some of the good is less obvious, the stuff that also happens in every home - the apologies, the conflict resolution, the tough love, the boundaries, the making up, the hard lessons. We are molding failure into character, both our kids' and ours. Every parent blows it. Every kid comes unhinged. Every family goes off the rails. That doesn't mean we are ruined; it means we are ordinary. Course correction is standard. These moments often feel bad because they started bad, but they are actually good, and they count too."
This is Candace. She hates long walks on the beach and would prefer a short drive to get a donut. Her creative spirit leaves her husband constantly guessing which room she'll decorate next and her kids requesting elaborate birthday parties. She'll tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it. But don't worry, she'll make you laugh to soften the blow. Her heart longs to share the realness of her life and provide someone else a "me too" in a moment of isolation. Words are her thing; she writes to heal. God grasped a hold of Candace as a teenage mama, and she's been desperate for His love and sensitive to His voice everyday since.