|Many clean-up bags for many messes: |
the life of a canine companion!
One of my dog's many skills is input: he's a good eater! By extension, he's also good at... output. So good, in fact, that (as a responsible canine companion) I purchase the mess-removal bags in bulk.
Clean-up is not my favourite part of having a dog, but it's the right thing to do.. Leaving a mess is ugly, unsanitary, un-neighbourly, etc. Yet there are people who do: when they are distracted/ ignoring/ oblivious to the mess being made; when they can't be bothered attending to the mess; or (in extreme cases) when they delight in seeing a pile in the yard of someone they don't like.
Poop happens. Literally, and metaphorically.
So what happens when the poop isn't something that fits into one of those little bags? When the mess is the brokenness in a relationship or a community?
An extreme example from a friend in church-land: a group of intentional mess-makers cruelly (and remotely) caused division in a parish, with many leaving the church. Pleased with the resultant mess, this group proclaimed a generic "mistakes were made" to the remaining community. They did not take ownership of the mess they had so careful curated, and they did not reach out to the individuals whom they had made effort to offend.
In the dog analogy, it was piling poop in someone's yard until the person moved, then proclaiming to the neighbours that the mess shouldn't have happened in the first place. The mess is still there, however, and now more unpleasant than before; and without taking ownership of it, there is significant potential for the mess-makers to return to the same poopy behaviour.
While messes are inevitable, as Christians we are called to put aside our egos and to seek to make things right - to clean up our messes - before they reach excremental levels. It is not a time for shaming, but for being accountable for our actions. It means apologising with intentionality, and engaging in reconciliation. Like using a bag, it can be unpleasant, but it is essential work. A mess left alone will not clean itself up, and may in fact get nastier. But once a mess is cleaned, and any resultant stink is past, a community can go on to flourish and grow - mess-free. Communities that are based on truth and respect and love - the values of our faith - are worth the efforts of cleaning up the mess.