7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Cor 4:7-9 NASB
As the sun began to rise over the Rosillos mountains, painting them the ruddy red hues reminiscent of the wild roan’s coat from which they get their name, I was lost deep in thought. I urged my truck northward through the rugged desert hills of Big Bend National park in the early hours of the morning, all the while reflecting upon the events of the past week.
It had been a rewarding and momentous time journeying with a group of college students through the spectacular limestone canyons of the Rio Grande, and to the top of the windswept rhyolite peaks of the high Chisos. Many conversations and circumstances replayed themselves like a rich tapestry woven in my mind. One phrase in particular stuck out; “Jason, you’re a hot mess”, my good friend John had told me early in the week as he tried not to stare at my beard that had become streaked with a mixture of dried snot and the remnants of a delicious meal of red beans and rice. The expression stuck, and by the end of the trip I was Jason “hot mess” Mann.
As leaders we so often desperately try to convey a sense of competence, professionalism, and “having it all together.” While it is crucial for a group to trust the abilities and experience of leadership, the truth is, none of us really “have it all together” all the time. The wilderness experience has a way of stretching us, prodding us, pulling us, and illuminating the cracks in the carefully constructed facades that we present to world. So often when I’m leading backcountry trips something will happen that will remind me that I’m not in control. The forces of nature, circumstance, and time all conspire to throw me off balance. That feeling is at the same time terrifying and freeing.
As I continued winding my way out of the park these words by We As Human played on my iPhone: “But isn't it beautiful, the way we fall apart? It's magical and tragic all the ways we break our hearts. So unpredictable. We're comfortably miserable. We think we're invincible, completely unbreakable, and maybe we are. Isn't it beautiful, the way we all fall apart?“ As the words sunk into my soul, I made peace with the fact that my life is a beautiful mess. So often, despite my best efforts and intentions, things don’t go the way I’ve hoped and planned, and yet that is how God is most glorified. This earthen vessel holds a power that is so much beyond anything I could ever do or accomplish. May you rest this week in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and ability to make something beautiful from your mess.