“Transitions are Messy”

It’s Labor Day weekend. It is a period of transition. Summertime to school time; hot weather to cool; beach tags to book bags.

This transition time is also a time of storytelling. “Where did you go?” “What did you do?” “What did you see?” “For homework, boys and girls, write a 400-word essay on, ‘What I did during my summer vacation.’”

My priest friends often tease me about a statement that I like to say which is “transitions are messy.” Messiness is not always a bad thing. It’s the only way that we grow. Still, transition and messiness can be difficult. The glorious stories of summer sometimes hide sadder stories.

Mary DeMuth is a mom to three amazing young adults and the wife of 28 years to Patrick. She makes her home in Dallas. Mary is the author of forty books. She’s been on CNN and featured in The Washington Post. She has spoken in Munich, Johannesburg, Port au Prince, Geneva and Monte Carlo, and southern France. She has spoken around the world about God’s ability to transform a life. In this, she brings needed freedom to her audiences.

Mary’s latest book deals with a messy topic that Bishop Robert Barron wrote about recently: We Too: How the Church Can Respond Receptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis (Harvest House 2019). We often tend to tell the terrific tale of July-to-September in glowing terms. Often there is a messier, darker part of the story that we don’t share. Mary claims that we need to find a place and a way to share those darker tales. Many people already are.

Mary writes about transition and messiness in an article: “How Change Can Happen When We Share the Messy Parts of our Stories.” She writes that “We are all just pilgrims on a rocky path. We are doing our best. We are failing, getting back up again, embracing grace and praying for the broken. Along the way we tell the great, great story of our redemption.”

She states that “you can’t grow spiritual fruit in a lab. Formulas are inadequate for the process of the messy growth we experience in real life. Too often we reach for the newest self-help book or seek out the latest effective formula. We look for human, spiritual and religious solutions. Human formulas seldom save. They enslave. If you didn’t “grow” right, you blame yourself. If you try the formula, and you still struggle, then you must be the problem. You haven’t followed the steps correctly. Religion and spirituality also enslave. When you did everything perfectly, you still failed. This led you to question the goodness of God - logical thing to do. Why wouldn’t He answer your prayers? You did everything right!

We used to write how-to books because that’s what we thought would help others. Today, authors are writing #MeToo books. The topics are not just about sexual abuse. They are about everything! Why? Because people are looking for connections and community. People are looking for people with shared experiences. They are looking for places to share their story.

Why go to Church on Sunday? Because Church is table fellowship. We don’t sit around dinner tables much anymore. Our ability to argue intelligently, with gentleness and care among friends, has been lost. Because of that, we’re polarized, isolated in our camps about hot issues. In our social-media-crazed culture, we have forgotten that human beings exist behind the pixels.

People of differing opinions are not enemies, but fellow partakers. It’s hard to hate someone with whom you share a meal.

I will write more about Mary and messiness on my blog. I’ll also be covering the topic of transition - and the practical, spiritual aspects of it - over the next few weeks.

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