An Ugly Mess or Beautiful Design
It was just hours before Jesus would be arrested, face an illegal trial, and be brutally killed by crucifixion. He and his disciples were gathered together at the “Last Supper” in the upper room.
Jesus then gets up from the table, takes a towel and a basin of water, and proceeds to wash each of his disciples’ feet! This was a job for the lowliest servant; and yet the master, the rabbi (teacher), the divine miracle-worker, the very Son of God, takes this task upon himself.
“What in the world are you doing, Jesus?” The apostle Peter tried to stop Him. “No, Lord! You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus then calmly responds: “You do not understand what I am doing now, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)
These words were fitting, not only for that foot-washing, but for all of the events that would take place in the following days. Peter and the disciples would be confused, dumbfounded, disappointed, and terrified. They would watch in horror as their Lord Jesus was arrested, tortured, and then crucified.
Feeling helpless and in anguish, they must have wondered how things got so bad, so quickly. How did this all progress into such an ugly mess?
The story is told of a person who was visiting a fabric factory. The owner of the factory took the man out on the production floor, and they stopped before a giant loom reaching from the floor to the ceiling. It was whirring and humming — with spindles spinning, and shuttles flying back and forth, and yet as the visitor looked at the fabric being made, all he could see was a jumble of threads and yarn, loose ends in a mish-mash of color.
“What an ugly mess! I think your machine must be broken. Who would want this fabric?!” exclaimed the man to the factory owner.
With a chuckle, the owner motioned to the man and said, “You’re not seeing it from the right side! Come over here and look!”
They both walked around to the other side of the machine, and there the man saw the true nature of the fabric. It was a flowing, balanced, beautiful design! It was fabric of the highest quality. From the back it would be most difficult to understand what was being formed — but when viewing the fabric from the front, you could see the lovely, intricate design that was being produced.
This is similar to Jesus’ innocent passion and death. From an earthly, human viewpoint, it all seemed like an ugly mess. But from God’s perspective and plan – from eternity’s viewpoint — this was the beautiful, necessary design for our salvation!
And it is also the case for us in our lives, with all of the challenges, difficulties and obstacles we face.
From our viewpoint, at times we may echo Peter’s sentiment in that upper room: “What in the world are you doing, Lord? This is all wrong — this is an ugly mess!”
When we begin to feel like that, the words that Jesus spoke to Peter also apply to us: “You do not understand now, but you will later!”
As we look at our own life situations, it might appear like the back side of that fabric. It may look like an ugly mess. But the Lord God perceives our lives and situations we face from the other side. He can see his own unique design and plan being produced in the lives of his people — and it is a thing of beauty!
When we do face those challenging “ugly” messes in our lives, we also take comfort in knowing that God has not abandoned us. It might appear that way to us at times, but the Lord has promised us: “I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
He also reminds us, “All things work together for the good of those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) This is part of the weaving together of the colorful lines (events and experiences) in the fabric of our lives.
Just as it was with our Savior’s own afflictions, suffering and death, the things that appear from this earthly side to be an ugly mess will be, from God’s view, part of his design of beauty!
Yes, thankfully, the Lord is with us each and every day, and he is working in spite of — and through — the ugliness to produce something exquisite. You and I can look forward to that day when we will enjoy that other perspective — the “other side” — the viewpoint of Heaven for ourselves, and we’ll fully appreciate and marvel at God’s beautiful design!