“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Looking through Instagram the other day, I realized how quickly I shot through the images. Pretty little pictures with quotes and some with scripture crossed my feed. I wasn’t even stopping to read them.
Outside of my favorite bloggers, I enjoy following different cities and countries around the world. My absolute favorite is Ireland Calling. I love it not just because I love the dreamy images of Ireland but also because it shows some rustic views. Sometimes the rough parts are the most interesting.
I feel that way about life too.
For example, my home. Yes, I like a tidy home; however, I do not want a magazine cover. When people come over I want them to curl up on my sofa just like I would. If something spills, we clean it up. If something breaks we either fix it or save for another. It’s a home. Its shelter, warmth, a gathering place where mean games of scrabble are played and we yell at the dog to be quiet after 9:30. My family lives in this space so I don’t worship it by meticulously worrying about if everything is in its proper place.
Life is messy.
I have spent most of my life trying to hide my messy. I tried so hard, I fell apart – several times. And for about four years, I was a basket case. A messy, emotional, unhealthy basket case. My cognitive skills were so out of whack, I struggled recognizing people I had known for years. I focused inward. Negative thoughts dominated.
Here is an important part I want to share. Just because it was dark inside me didn’t mean there was no light at all. I was desperately trying to let Jesus shine through. I spent major time with my face in the carpet crying out to Jesus through out those four years. I spent hours in scripture and plugged into good deeds. I diligently attended church and Bible study.
Life was hard, but the beauty did come.
I found the beauty in the ugly. Slowly, as God worked on healing me, gratitude for the small things bloomed inside of me. I began to notice the sunshine through the spotted window, the flower in crack of a sidewalk, my child’s giggle at an unexpected joke, the smile of a sick neighbor after delivering bread to them, the amusement from accidentally singing the wrong words in worship, the blessing of patience given after the confusion in calling someone by the wrong name … the list goes on.
I learned beauty does not equal my definition of perfection. Beauty is found in goodness. It is not always a visual, sometimes it is in the feeling of a moment experienced.
I also learned perfection is not God’s expectation. His expectation is that I learn to love despite the imperfection around me and within me, giving grace to others and myself, because that is showing His true nature.
Often when I read Philippians 4:8 in the past, I would get stuck on the idea that God just wanted me to focus on things that were pretty and perfect; also believing it was my job to make everything pretty and perfect. But that is not what the verse says. It says, ““Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” In fact, it says nothing about pretty or perfect.
Seeking truth is trusting God and His word despite the hard times in life. Being noble is holding integrity even though you’ve been wronged. Doing what is right means following the word not the world’s changing opinions. Valuing what is pure means choosing God’s way and shutting down your temptations before they lead you to evil or paths that will hurt you. Noticing what is lovely is realizing the gentle voice of encouragement is louder than the put downs around you. Being admirable is not only doing what is just, but not needing acknowledgement for it. Seeking excellence isn’t looking for perfection, it’s doing the best you can knowing God will meet you where you are to help you finish through to completion. Finally, giving praise is telling God you trust that he knows the best for you even if the challenging moment you are in has you asking God to give you strength for that trust.
Just like the images of perfection on Instagram, the goal of a pretty and perfect life have become boring to me. I like a little bit of messy, a good victory story over a struggle, and the smile on a cosmetic free wrinkled face of a life well lived. Most of all, I love the feeling of grace given when life’s messiness overflows and laughter seeps in from true joy because God lives with us through it all.