Messes that matter

It was one of my conference highlights at Converge 2012. I’d just finished teaching a break-out session, Messy Girls Who Matter. A hundred girls who’d traded shame for purpose headed happily out the door. Jenn, though, stayed behind to talk. I could tell from the tears that her mess lingered.

“I’m mean to my mom,” she confessed. “She thinks I hate her. Most days, I treat her real bad. Arguing, screaming, making her cry. I’m a terrible daughter.”

“Do you love your mom?” I asked.

“Oh, yes!” Jenn kind of smiled then. “She’s great! Not perfect, but she does her best. It’s just that she makes me mad, and then I’m mean.”

“Sounds like God is showing you a mess. I wonder how He’ll help you fix it. What’s He whispering right now?”

Jenn began to bawl. She was convicted, weighed down, the necessary kind just before change happens. “He says I need to make it right. To tell her I’m sorry. To show love, not hate.”

So we prayed about this very thing. We chatted about the how-to’s of serving, not demanding; respecting, not belittling and discussing, not yelling. We talked about the Holy Spirit’s power through us, helping us make the change.

We hugged and as Jenn turned to leave, she seemed lighter, prettier. “I’m so thankful I came to this session! I’m glad you talked about moms.” Then she was gone.

Suddenly I wanted to do a happy dance. Nowhere in my notes was any mention of moms. I’d practiced this session a hundred times, had planned to follow the outline. But during my talk, I took an unscheduled detour: An old memory popped up, a time at fifteen when I’d made my own mom cry. And I told it, all of it, off the cuff and transparent: The teenaged mouthiness, the pain in Mom’s eyes, the guilt afterward. My eyes even welled up relaying the story. It surprised me, the resurrection of this tale and my still-tender response.

“Where did that come from?” I remember thinking as I moved to the next point. “You’re off topic, Ava. Don’t mess this up!” But now, as I gathered my notes and turned off the lights, the outcome was clear. Everything had been in order. Custom made for Jenn.

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