Wonderful but Messy!

One of the guiding principles of our Partnership in Mission ministry is building relationships. From the very beginning of the development of this ministry in the 1990’s, we understood Partnership in Mission as being more than just how many surgeries could we perform; or how many patients we could see in two weeks; or how many houses could we build or repair while on mission. We always knew that “Partnership” meant building relationships with people as we did surgeries, cared for people, and improved homes, huts or just cleaned yards. A partnership demands at least two parties just by its name,although there can be numerous.

In my 32 years of living in relationship with people in Brazil and then 7 more years with this Partnership I have been blessed with so many Partnerships and consequently so many relationships. Some have lasted since 1978 and some are as recent as last year. Many of these people have already gone to be with God and others will probably be going soon. But one of the necessary truths that we must embrace as we journey together in the Spirit through life’s paths, is that relationships are absolutely wonderful, but they are also messy. At times, really messy!

This pandemic has had many effects on us which many of the mental health experts are concerned about. Often we see articles written about how to take care of ourselves not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. Even though our social lives have been greatly curtained, and those of us who are social butterflies have probable felt it the most, all of us need to know and experience that we still are connected with loved ones. 

Friendship is wonderful but it takes a lot of energy and humility to maintain a relationship in good working order. Life is messy, so naturally maintaining these relationships can be, too. As we follow Jesus in the Gospels and Paul and the first missionaries in the New Testament we see that their friends did not always correspond to what Jesus or Paul needed. How painful these words must have been in Peter’s ears, “Get behind me, Satan!” knowing that he had somehow messed things up with Jesus. Paul had to separate from Mark because of some serious reason. Did they not feel the pain of splitting up when they both served the same Lord? 

We often heard people lament when they suddenly lose a loved one, “If only I had taken advantage of the time we had when she was alive?” The messiness got in the way and took the relationship in a direction that led to separation instead of deeper love. I recently came across a quote by the late singer Bob Marley which reads: “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” Once we have found those, and once we have suffered with, for and because of them, then we will discover that the messiness will always take second place to the wonderment of a friend.

Here is a challenge for all of us: identify those who are worth suffering for; reach out to them during these times of loneliness and yearning; and then look beyond these friends because they will be the catalyst to help you seek out the causes that are also worth suffering for. Our world right now is also very messy and yet God calls us to be the wonder of love and compassion that makes all the suffering worth it. God calls us to make sacrifices to keep everyone safe by doing some simple things. God calls us to realize that we all are worth it. As I reread my writing I realize another important truth: it is not easy, it is very, very difficult to answer the call that God entrusts to us. Sometimes it seems just too messy.


Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

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