Showing Up Messy

girl with messy stack of clothes - photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

One afternoon right before the end of the fall semester, a smiling child came rushing down the school hallway shouting, “Mom, I just have to tell you something!”

The sight of him at that moment made me chuckle and sigh almost simultaneously. First, his pants had a tear right above the knee that I know was not there that morning. His other knee was dirty with something red. (I am pretty sure it was marker but, knowing him, it could have been blood.) It was also clear that he tried to put his jacket on after he put on his backpack, because one arm was securely in the armhole while the rest of the jacket was sliding and scraping along the ground. Before he could tell me whatever it was that was so important, he whipped around to see if his brother was following him, and the contents of his unzipped backpack scattered across the floor. Oblivious to the mess he created, he said with urgency, “Mom, you just have to see the coolest thing I made in the STREAM lab today!”

This is not an unusual way for my child to show up for me at the end of a long school day. He is often the perfect storm of messy and beautiful all wrapped up in one little body.

Sometimes, I lack compassion for this beautiful mess, especially at the end of a long day. Other times, however, I am absolutely struck by the honesty and abandon with which he shows up. I think his realness in these moments makes me love him even more.

That makes me wonder, What if I showed up to God like this—messy, disheveled, perhaps a little bloody, yet bursting with excitement at what I have to offer? Would it try God’s compassion for me? Or would it deepen God’s love for me and strengthen our relationship with one another?

As this new year begins, I am tempted to try to make myself better. I am drawn to trying a new exercise regime, a new diet, a new planner, and/or a new organizational system to work on improving myself and my family. To be honest, working to make myself better is a temptation I feel every time a new year comes to pass.

But what if this year, instead of spending all my energy trying to improve myself and others, I focused on showing up as the real me?

What would it be like if I allowed myself to show up to God and others as a messy, imperfect human, who is full of excitement about what life has to offer?

What would it be like if you did the same?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Love the story about your boy. Life is messy. but your boy was too excited to notice his mess. Just what he had to tell you. Rosemarie

  2. I sure am going through a Messy period at present…I am praying for His help to get me through it.
    So, thank you for this article. A.M.D.G.

  3. In reading the Bible, I am struck by the imperfections of God’s chosen: his prophets carrying his message, the apostles, the disciples. St Peter, the impetuous and St Paul, the stickler: both great apostles and leaders. I stand before God in a show of messiness and still can discern (in moments of clarity) that I am loved. Thanks, Gretchen.

  4. Gretchen, your article was a blessing today. I’ve been showing up messy for prayer and life in general these days. You reminded me that God is with me, even in the messy.

  5. Excellent. God already knows who we are so let’s rejoice in the knowledge that we are known and loved deeply.
    Thank you very much.

  6. Wow, yesterday I read this from THE MOUNTAIN IS YOU by Brianna Wiest: ” The truth is that you don’t change your life when you fix every piece and call that healing. You change your life when you start showing up exactly as you are . . . when you start showing up exactly as you are, you cut the b.s.” And today I read your terrific article on showing up in my messiness. Thank you, I think God’s trying to tell me something here! Bless your ministry!


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