I was a pretty terrible friend to someone I love very much recently. When I was finally called out for it, I was immediately defensive and an argument ensued while my husband sneaked around carefully closing the windows lest the neighbours hear me peeling the paint off the walls with my screeching. I reacted like a wounded animal when I was the one who had wounded my friend – it was steadily my fault. The snot was flying and nearly an hour later, I was repenting and sobbing with remorse. We followed the argument all the way down to redemption and forgiveness, and we emerged battle worn and exhausted and reconciled. If it had been up to me, I would have never had that undignified argument (hello, I’m an INFJ, nice to meet you, I hate conflict) and that important friendship would have been lost in my attempt to preserve dignity.

Thank God for friends who nail your dignity to the wall and crawl into your mess and failures to haul you out, kicking and hollering, to the light. It’s not always dignified to fight for a real relationship but it’s always good. Dignity would have lost me the real goodness of a friend. Instead, in the very human act of puffy eyes and hiccuping, of confessions and confrontations, I found God all over again and I was restored to a very real and very holy friendship, to a life without the protective armour.

Hey, happy-clappy folks, do you remember that song we used to love called “Undignified”? We used to sing it and jump around and wave our hands because it was a song about the passage of Scripture when David dances wildly before the Lord and his wife shames him for it but he retorts that he’ll become even more undignified in his worship. So we sang about how we were going to dance like David danced; we were going to become even more undignified than this. And then we’d clap our hands and stomp our feet and whirl with abandon.

I loved that song. (I have been trying to write through the complexity of reconciling and reclaiming my charismatic upbringing, and how I am both progressive and pentecostal in my sensibilities but I’m not doing a good job at it. Someday perhaps.)

Anyway, I was thinking about that word “undignified” after that come-to-Jesus moment a few weeks ago, and realised that I’ve almost always found God most in my undignified moments – by dancing ridiculously, by telling secrets, by being willing to be foolish, by taking chances, by working hard, by engaging in the mess and weirdness of family life, all of it.

I used to have an idea in my head of what Someone Who Is Holy looked like: sedate, thin, beautiful, ethereal, just a mite austere. Of course a posh British accent is the true mark of holiness to a gauche Canadian like me. Someone Who Is Holy has children who don’t fuss, they probably love to listen to classical music. Someone Who Is Holy isn’t pacing down the grocery store aisle with three tinies hanging off the cart and coupons in her purse, she isn’t running the dryer again to “fluff” the clothes that have sat in there too long, she isn’t snorting while she laughs at television shows on Netflix, she isn’t on her hands and knees wiping up someone else’s vomit, she isn’t locking the bedroom door and throwing a saucy look of promise at her husband because clearly good sex isn’t included in the holiness life, she doesn’t sweat, she doesn’t turn on cartoons for three-minutes-of-peace-for-the-love. She is above such things. Someone Who Is Holy walks in beauty, like the night, no doubt, perpetually calm and serene, clean and aloof, beautiful and wise.

No, instead, I’ve found God in the daily scrum and commitment, the discipline and noise, of a family and a community and my own womanhood.

I’ve found God to be most present, I’ve heard the Holy Spirit most clearly, I’ve felt the peace of Christ most, when I stop thinking that these indignities and frustrations or failings, are getting in the way of my Real Life. The Real Life is the undignified life and the Real Life is the classroom for holiness anyway. If you can’t find God while you’re changing diapers or serving food or hanging out with your friends, you won’t find Him at the worship service or the spiritual retreat or the regimented daily quiet times or the mission field.

I believe God hides in plain sight in your right now life, if you have the guts to taste and see, confront and wrestle and rest.

I’m not so worried about holiness anymore, to be honest anyway. I’ve given up on false demarcations between the sacred and the secular in my life, the Kingdom is so close it’s breathing beside us now. I can’t confuse an unbothered and uninterrupted life with a peaceful life anymore – that luxury disappeared with three babies in four and a half years, with work and bills and longings for justice and the news cycle and neighbourhood kids ringing my doorbell, and public school.

Holiness can be found in washing soiled bedsheets and clipping fingernails while singing songs to distract worried toddlers. Holiness for me was found in the mess and labour of giving birth, in birthday parties and community pools, in the battling sweetness of breastfeeding, in the repetition of cleaning, in the step of faith it took to go back to church again, in the hours of chatting that have to precede the real heart-to-heart talks, in the yelling at my kids sometimes, in the crying in restaurants with broken hearted friends, in the uncomfortable silences at our bible study when we’re all weighing whether or not to say what we really think, in the arguments inherent to staying in love with each other, in the unwelcome number on the scale, in the sounding out of vowels during bedtime book reading, in the dust and stink and heat of a tent city in Port au Prince, in the beauty of a soccer game in the Haitian dust, in the listening to someone else’s story, in the telling of my own brokenness, in the repentance, in the secret telling and the secret keeping, in the suffering and the mourning, in the late nights tending sick babies, in confronting fears, in the all of a life.

Love doesn’t afford much dignity. All of life flames with God, yes, and God is blazing out in the indignities of a life.

By God’s grace, I will become more undignified than this. 

 

 

In which I beg Barbie's pardon
In which life is a little unsatisfying so I light candles and sing songs
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  • Rachel

    Beauty and truth. Rings true for this INFJ over here too.

  • Oh Sarah, I love this! I have been learning, lately, about these things as well. It is always so wonderful to see that God teaches us similar things, the world over.
    I hate and love the messy holiness of life, the real life that intrudes upon my ideas of what “real life” should be. The relationships which look different than I ever thought they would.
    (and I’m an INFJ, too, with there being supposedly so few of us in the world, I seem to know a lot of them, glad to know that you are among them!)

    • Lizzi Klassen

      I think there’s more of us INFJs out there than popular Myers-Briggs information would have us believe.

  • “If you can’t find God while you’re changing diapers or serving food or
    hanging out with your friends, you won’t find Him at the worship service
    or the spiritual retreat or the regimented daily quiet times or the
    mission field.”

    I…just…wow. Stop making me speechless already, lol. This was great. Really great.

    • I hear you, Don!

      “I…just…wow. Stop making me speechless already, lol. This was great. Really great.”

      What he said.

  • Lindsay

    I’m an ISFJ and the beginning of this post with the friend upset with you and the ensuing fight had me anxious just reading it. Hate. Conflict. I loved the story of coming out the other side, though, and the reality to the tough work of redemption. It’s so much messier than we seem to think, and thank God that there is holiness to be had in the everyday. Thank YOU for reminding me of that today.

  • just dripping with wisdom here…

  • Amy Bovaird

    I liked your posting, Sara. Two things stood out to me: I know that verse about David being undignified, and I love that because it means that something real is going on as we strive to live with the messiness of life and yet grow closer to Him. The second point in which I identified is Jesus hiding in plain sight. I don’t know if He’s actually “hiding” but we (at least, I) don’t always “see” him. I’m trying to change that in my faith walk. Thanks for your observations. http//amybovaird.com

  • This is beautiful. Brings a whole new meaning to that word ‘undiginfied’ – I remember singling that song at festivals in the UK in the late 90’s, and dancing and going crazy. But you’re right, it’s the craziness of the everyday mess, of the screw ups, mistakes, and everydayness, where we can find the divine. He’s right here with us right now, next to us in all things. Thanks for this reminder.

    And for reference, I’m an INFJ too, so know exactly what you mean about avoiding conflict! 🙂

  • Love this, Sarah. I so agree. Holiness is made in the mess. And I hate that because I hate to clean it up. I hate to be there. So uncomfortable. But your experience with your friend is so real and true. It’s emerging snotty but friends again, with God and each other and ourselves. Thank you for being honest and brave.

  • Tom LeGrand

    Hehehe…actually thought of that song as soon as I saw the post! Not sure that we ever really grasped the meaning of it in youth group, but it certainly rings true that there is more to it than jumping around while everyone else jumps around.
    The word itself has a subtle beauty and meaning when used in the sense of Christian faith. Undignified can mean cleaning the wounds of the leper a la Mother Theresa, or it can mean sobbing in repentance in spite of what everyone may be thinking around you. It may be undignified in the Emily Post sense, but perhaps it is actually the kind of true dignity that we hope and pray to find in Christ.

  • Sarah Silvester

    I love how you can put words to the things in my own heart. I’m so thankful for your gift.

  • Christine Anderson

    Thank you for sharing. I love your writing…and that is one of my favorite songs, too!

  • Yes!
    “I’ve given up on false demarcations between the sacred and the secular in my life, the Kingdom is so close it’s breathing beside us now.”
    If Christ came to restore all things, then the Kingdom is now. We walk in both worlds as did Adam and Eve.

  • sarah

    If you had in your head an idea of what Someone Who Is Holy looks like, I’ve had in mine what the Successful and Compassionate Graduate from a Progressive Christian College would be doing. The S&C Grad is sitting on a yoga ball at her open-floor plan nonprofit office, posting clever yet deep remarks for her few hundred Twitter followers and cooking Farmer’s Market meals every night. She can afford to buy gorgeous clothes from Anthropologie while donating the rest of her paycheck to good causes.

    Meanwhile, I’m going on three months of unemployment after quitting my soul-sucking office job at a tiny seafood company. SEAFOOD! Quite far from chic non-profit, let me assure you. I’m trying to makes jokes about being a feminist stay-at-home wife while I worry about whether I’ll ever figure out what the next step will be. I have became quite adept at steering conversations away from me because I so dread the question “So, what do you do…?” and I almost lose my mind when people pull out their five-step plan to finding your dream career. CAN I JUST BE CONFUSED FOR A WHILE?

    Thank you for reminding me that God hides in plain sight right in the midst of our messes, and that we can find him even (especially?) in those in-between places. I will be clinging to this while I’m making yet another trip to Trader Joe’s, sleeping in until 10 AM, and dusting the apartment for fun because most of my friends are at work. Perhaps I will catch more glimpses of God in this season of unemployment and general vocational confusion if I stop viewing it as an obstacle to holiness and growth.

    I appreciate you quite a bit, Sarah Bessey.

    • pastordt

      Oh, how I love this reply. Yes, you most certainly can be confused for a while. For quite a while, actually. It’s part of the human condition and it’s part of life and anyone who can write a comment that is this profound is most definitely growing in holiness. Just sayin’.

  • pastordt

    Oh, LORD, YES. Learn this lesson well now, Perhaps then the indignities that come with the aging process ( and believe me, they COME) will not feel quite so intrusive and overwhelming. And maybe, just maybe, not so very unwelcome, either. For a person who is taking some time away for a while, this one just reeks of anything but that!!! Thank you for it.

    • Amy Hunt

      YES, me, too!

    • I hear you, Diana. And I was thinking the same thing as I read this. We WILL be undignified – like it or not. This growing older is rife with indignities, and may I add that learning to laugh at them is crucial. Because it’s true that “a merry heart is good medicine”…because it’s evidence of God’s grace.

  • Amy Hunt

    YES! This is worship! He is showing me this — living is worship, by and by.

  • Sarah, my life is fraught with undignified living, but still I do always have the holy superwoman in my head whom I believe I should be. Some day. And right now if I was doing “better”

    Actually spent a lot of time writing about it lately, how my life is lived rejecting grace by promising to do better tomorrow.

    Thank God i don’t have to be a poised Britt with quiet children to be Holy, this was just right this morning, like a calorie free dessert for the soul.

  • I love this Sarah! I just stumbled upon this quote from Brennan Manning yesterday: I’ve decided that if I had my life to live over again, I would not only climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets; I wouldn’t only jettison my hot water bottle, raincoat, umbrella, parachute, and raft; I would not only go barefoot earlier in the spring and stay out later in the fall; but I would devote not one more minute to monitoring my spiritual growth. No, not one.”

  • “We followed the argument all the way down to redemption and forgiveness, and we emerged battle worn and exhausted and reconciled. If it had been up to me, I would have never had that undignified argument (hello, I’m an INFJ, nice to meet you, I hate conflict) and that important friendship would have been lost in my attempt to preserve dignity.”

    Exactly! I’m an “INF, nice to meet you, I hate conflict”, too, and only recently experienced a similar scenario. Was that ever hard. Even after reconciliation, I’m still recovering.

  • HisFireFly

    yes, this – “If you can’t find God while you’re changing diapers or serving food or hanging out with your friends, you won’t find Him at the worship service or the spiritual retreat or the regimented daily quiet times or the mission field.”
    sharing on Facebook – many need to read

  • Jennifer Tammy

    LOVE from a fellow INFJ. Shared on FB, to help “free” others from the trappings of dignity.

  • Woah. That is beauty and truth and Jesus. Thank you.

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  • Valerie

    Wow! What a great post. Love reading your blog Sarah Bessey. Thank you for your words of truth.

  • Liza

    The Renovatus podcast with Jonathan Martin. Do you listen? Excellent combo of the pentacostal and liturgical/cerebral. Also, this ENFP says thank you. Right on. It just takes EFFORT to realize that the sacred is happening. I am a reader first, and have always experienced life more profoundly when it is narrated for me. In the thick of the everyday, I get caught up in the doing.

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  • jswwrites

    Love this post! I gave up trying to separate the secular and sacred a decade or more ago, when God really pounded into me that the early Jews saw everything as sacred – vomit and blood and crying and cooking and fighting and loving. There’s a real freedom in just being His, through everything. Oswald Chambers, one of my all time favorites, talks about this a lot, too. Authentic freedom in Christ means, first, AUTHENTIC. And pretending that all the messiness of life isn’t in our faces doesn’t fit that word! My kids are gone now – one got married in June, and one has just started an extended trip to Uganda this week. That brings a whole new set of angst and adjustment and relationship that I’m figuring out one step at a time. It’s not as messy as diapers and spit-up, but just as emotional! Btw, I’m an INFP, but the P part is in the middle of the scale so sometimes I slide to J… and I hate conflict, too! My husband basically argues for a living, so sometimes I take long baths. ha!

  • I love this so much. I’m such an undignified person -not because I’m trying to be holy, but because I’m just such a mess – and this gives it new meaning.

    • And by undignified I don’t mean humble. I just mean I’m like the underside of dignity. I despise conflict, but more of this variety would go a long way.

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  • This gave me chills. And made me smile. Because I love you so.

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