Ever make a mess in the microwave? I mean the really big kind of mess? You know, like maybe you went to heat up a hamburger on a plate that had ketchup on the side and for some reason you thought it was a good idea to nuke it for a minute? Not that I would personally know anything about that (wink, wink, nod, nod) but I imagine that would make a whopper of a mess. Every snap, pop, and hiss would indicate another splatter of ketchup all over the inside of the microwave. And, if for some reason, known only to God, you just stood there and let it continue for the full minute…well, you get the picture, right? Sigh.
Yep, just did that a few minutes ago. I don’t know what I was thinking. But while I was cleaning it up, it suddenly gave me a picture of the mess I sometimes make with my relationships. The similarities are frighteningly striking.
To begin with, I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing and that’s often how I get into trouble with my relationships. I say or do things without taking just one little nanosecond to think it through. It’s like someone switched my brain to “off”. I recently sent a friend an e-mail, that, in the back of my mind I knew was a bad idea, but in the midst of a brain blip, I hit “send”. What was I thinking? Oh wait…I wasn’t. You’re feeling my pain right about now, aren’t you?
With the microwave incident, however, I at least had the wherewithal to clean up the mess right then and there. Can you imagine how long that would have taken if I had walked away and let it sit? I wonder how much easier our lives would be if we would clean up our relational messes as quickly. How much more peaceful would our homes be, if we would apologize right away when we’ve been hurtful or inconsiderate? How much more peaceful would our churches be if we would be ready to accept an apology or simply not take offense so readily?
And what about those times that we walk away from the messes we created and leave the clean-up for someone else? We all know people who leave a trail of relational disaster behind them and expect others to follow along cleaning up the wreckage. But, in all likelihood we’ve each chosen what seemed like the easy way out rather than choosing humility, confession, repentance, godly sorrow, personal responsibility. I know I have. Sadly, my experience has been that the longer I wait to do the difficult or challenging thing, the harder it gets…just like dried up ketchup…it takes more time and more energy. Sometimes, if we wait long enough to clean up our messes we find that a relationship has been so tarnished, it may never be the same. What a shame. I hope the next time my neurons stop firing and I say or do something stupid, I will remember the ketchup and quickly take ownership and clean up my relational mess.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18