Then my wife came to the rescue. She ran outside with the camera and started taking pictures of the kids. She was telling them to throw more mud at each other so that she could get some “action shots”. What was her problem? Instead of yelling at those little dirt daubers, she was encouraging this mess! I curtly shouted Kim’s name, and gave her that look that parents give each other when they don’t want to say in front of the kids, “What in the name of mud bugs are you doing?” She looked back, rolled her eyes, and said “Don’t look at the mud, honey, look at the kids.”
So I did. I looked at my naked boys, drenched in a muddy stew, and then I looked past the mud. It was like a Magic Eye poster where you stare and stare at some random design, and then a delightful image suddenly appears just beyond the surface. This delightful image was comprised of smiling mouths and gleaming eyes. It was a picture of joy and freedom, and I soon found myself grabbing the camera from my wife and joining in this beautiful mess.
John Burke, in his book No Perfect People Allowed, writes about the feeling you might have if you found an original Rembrandt covered in mud. He writes:
“Your primary concern would not be the mud at all – though it would need to be removed. You’d be ecstatic to have something so valuable in your care. But if you tried to clean it up by yourself, you might damage it. So you would carefully bring this work of art to a master who could guide you and help you restore it to the condition originally intended. When people begin treating each other as God’s masterpiece waiting to be revealed, God’s grace grows in their lives and cleanses them.” – pg.97
Burke’s basic question is “Do you see the mud or the masterpiece?”
What kind of person am I? Do I look for the mud in the lives of others, or do I patiently perceive, Magic Eye style, the masterpiece’s around me? I’m afraid I usually don’t take the time to look for the beautiful messes of life. Instead, I walk around soured by this dirty world. I use my faith like a bottle of weed killer. In so doing, I kill the good plants with the weeds. Rather than allowing God to convict and change peoples lives, I feel the need to relieve Him so that he can take a lunch break, and I can be the boss.
Well, I’m not the boss (thank God), and it’s not really my job to clean people up. All I can do is accept them for who they are and point them toward the one with the ability to change them. What happens next isn’t up to me. If it were, I’d probably be looking for cleaner people. Unfortunately, I think we’ve all had our fair share of mud baths.