Born in a Barn
By Janel Breitenstein
I grew up on a small, tidy farm. There was a rustling green for acres, the mottled red of the apple trees, the streaked pink of rhubarb. Farms have their own simple beauty.
I doubt my parents saw it as simple. Seven days a week, there were animals needing care and feeding. Go on vacation, and you’re hiring someone to do it for you.
And then there were the smells and sounds. As I picture entering our barn, I think of stamping and restlessness, crusted fur, the earthy hay. My mom, aka “My love language is cleanliness,” had a protocol for my dad and his rank clothing and boots after chores.
So I find a redolent metaphor in Jesus being born in a stable, laid in a feed trough. Our God is not aloof. Not, “Sorry. You and your marriage happen to be too disgusting for Me.” Or, “I’ll just stay out here.” He didn’t even glide into the idyllic farm with cute chicks and carrots that taste best right out of the ground. He chose the filth.
As God entered the world from a screaming, sweating, grunting woman’s body, He came into our mess.
Manure can be scraped or hosed away; it’s much harder to reconcile the damage we do to each other. Francis Spufford describes in his book Unapologetic our “active inclination to break stuff, ‘stuff’ here including … promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s.”
Like a marriage, God was saying, Your mess is My mess. You needed Me, so I came all the way into this.
Maybe this Christmas finds you or your marriage feeling distant from God. It could be your deep suffering. Or maybe you think God likes “clean” people. Allow me to introduce you to The God in the Mess. The God Who Relates to Every Rank Bit of It.
Or as He called himself, God With Us.
This Christmas, lean in. He’s ready for your mess.
The good stuff: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Action points: Take a minute. What are some of your biggest hurdles to feeling close to God? To feeling like He is “with” you? How does the truth of Jesus answer your mind’s questions?
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