We all have times when we step into messy stories.

At times they are our own, other times we find ourselves in the messy middle of someone else’s tale. Hopeless stories? No! Never. But stories laced with hurt, miscommunication, unmet expectations, confusion, distance, defensiveness and posturing, yes.

Jesus entered messy stories.

  • Talking with the woman at the well about her five husbands.
  • Night time chats with Nichodemus as he wrestled with theological concepts.
  • Another woman, this one caught in adultery (and let’s not forget the men who brought her).

No two stories the same, whether in the Bible or in the mirror. Some stories painfully clear as to how this chapter got started; others requiring forensic work to answer the question how we got here, to this point, scratching our heads, wondering when had it all gone so wrong?

Having entered several of these stories in recent months, a recurring question, a longing really, is to know what, exactly, is the plan?  My answer: to submit to the process and through the process a plan will arise, a destination will be chosen.

That is the literal question. The hidden question, the one afraid to voice out loud is when will this be over? How long must I, must we, endure? We are often afraid to ask.

Afraid of looking weak.

Afraid of the answer.

Afraid of our role and what we will be asked to do.

Afraid that we will be disappointed in the outcome.

Instead people go with the safer question: So what’s the plan?  This is achingly unsatisfactory. It shows on their faces, in their eyes, reflected in their body language.

Submitting to the process leaves us walking with Abraham and Issac, every moment a step closer to the horrible request. Will you sacrifice this longed for child?

Submitting to the process has us sit with Joseph in a jail cell, unjustly accused, as the days add up to years. Seemingly abandoned, forgotten, and alone.

Submitting to the process joins Hannah and her tears on the way to Jerusalem crying out in the midst of infertility for a child.

Submitting to the process may find us ostracized like Jeremiah, convicted by the rooster’s cry like Peter, or desperate for healing like the woman who spent all of her money in an effort to stop bleeding.

Here’s the paradox of the messy middle, the way through is often to stop asking what the plan is. Life does not come with clear instructions, a tidy time line, or a guaranteed outcome. Instead of looking through the peephole and trying to figure out the future, open the door to the One knocking and calling.

He understands about submitting to the process. It’s not always the most direct route out of a messy story, but any other route gets you even more lost and frustrated.