In These Strange Ashes, Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “…I had my first inkling that it is not a tidy world we live in. It is not a world we can deal with sentimentally.” Elliot was describing an event during her first year as a missionary in South America. Her book describes that year as a sort of awakening to the complications of life, missions, and adulthood.
A year in the jungle, however, is not the only way to reach her conclusion “that it is not a tidy world we live in.” A quarter of a century in less exotic surroundings could also confirm the world’s general untidiness. Yet, we continue to attempt to organize and categorize it. We want to make sense of the world of relationships, news events, struggles, and conversations around us. An odd-shaped piece of clutter—an awkward family reunion or a friend’s job loss—appears, and we must struggle to fit it somewhere. I’m vulnerable to container-store style clichés and magazine articles with headlines built upon the premise that life isn’t really all that messy, if you just know how to arrange it.
In the end, the only place everything fits is into the foundational understanding that we are fallen people driven by a craving for the tidiness and perfection we forfeited. The beauty, struggle, violence, and compassion around me only make sense when I surrender to a righteous Creator– to whom I’m thankful for the occasional sentiment.