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4 Lessons from a Giant Mess

This story is from several years ago. The dog I mention has already passed away, and man, she turned out to be a great dog. As I reflected on notes over this again, I thought it worth sharing (for me, hopefully you too).

My wife and I spent a lot of time cleaning our house on a Tuesday night before she went out of town so that I could be ready for the Bible study that met at our home Thursday nights.  Everything in order, all I had to do was things clean for a couple days and I was home free.

I came home for lunch on Thursday to find that my 6 month old boxer puppy had manipulated her kennel door open and completely trashed the house.  Plants were overturned. Candles, stuffed animals, toys, and various other things were shredded and ripped apart.  Shoes had been chewed on. There were feces in various places and ground into the carpet as if she had run through it repeatedly. I found pee spots in at least four different places.

I had walked in through the garage, not knowing what was ahead. I walked into the laundry room and saw the first pile of poop. Panic set in. I walked into the kitchen to see some trash and rushed into the living and dining room where the worst of it was (felt like the movie, Marley and Me).

I screamed… a lot.  Honestly, no obscenities, it was more shrieks of terror and rage. The dog went and hid from me, making me even more angry.  After finding her, I used one of the shoes she chewed on to punish her and pushed her outside. Not my finest moment.

I yelled again and banged my palm on the door a few times. “Ahhhh!” I shouted. “Ridiculous!”  Sadly, I carried on for quite a while.

I went back to work tense and still upset. Still, once I did calm down, several lessons began to emerge.

  • Yelling didn’t help, it made it worse.  You may think you have to “let it out” but that’s not always helpful, especially in anger. I went through my afternoon so tense it was hard to come back down. I realized what I wanted was change and screaming didn’t accomplish that. Physically, I even made myself a little hoarse. Emotionally, I was worn out. The poor dog didn’t understand why I was so upset. I made the mess worse.
  • Doing the work is the only way to recover from a mess.  After the fit was thrown, I did what many in this technological age do: used social media to show my disapproval.  I didn’t like the situation. I hated that I had to cancel Bible study. I hated that I had to clean up a huge mess. I could have kept that attitude of complaining and grumbling as I did the work, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Again, what I wanted was change. You just have to do the work and you can make it more or less painful with your attitude. Dogs make messes (and so do kids… and adults). You just have to do the work. Accepting it with humility is hard but necessary.
  • The mess waited for me to clean it. Since I knew I had a night of cleaning ahead of me, I didn’t rush home but instead went to the gym after work.  Why? Spending mindless time on the elliptical machine is a huge stress reliever for me. I had already cleaned up the feces and urine at lunch so the rest was fairly standard cleaning (even if it was time-consuming). Sometimes we can tackle messes in the heat of anger and it takes us longer and causes more undue stress, much better to tackle it with the right attitude. Frame of mind is everything.
  • I found myself thankful afterwards.  I wasn’t thankful for the mess so much (although I’m thankful I’m learning from it). I started thinking how much worse it could have been. I thanked God I came home at lunch even though it was a short one that day. I thanked God that my computer, other electronics, and their cords were not destroyed. I was thankful that the dog didn’t get into our walk-in pantry and go wild.  When you honestly reflect on a mess, there are always things to be thankful for.

If you find yourself in a mess today–whether a destroyed house, relationship, emotions, finances, or whatever else–understand that God is always bigger and greater. It doesn’t matter if the mess is from your own choices or thrust upon you by others, you can deal with them productively (even though it’s hard).

God has much to say in His word about loss, anger, and yes, messes. See what He might say to you about where you are.

What’s your typical response to an unexpected mess? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned or best advice received when dealing with messes?


  1. Can you say, “How far can I throw the dog in the air?” Seriously, I’m not sure how I would have handled that type of mess. I do know I would not have been a happy camper. Good lessons though.
    Bill (cycleguy) recently posted..RebelMy Profile

    • My coping involved lots of unintelligible yells. 🙂 Appreciate it, Bill!

  2. Our dog used to get into our pantry and clean out the rice tub… lesson learned after a few times was to put a locking latch on the pantry door.
    But I have my fits and angry moments too. You’re right…screaming and ranting on won’t help, but it sure is a great stress reliever!
    The best way is like you said…get some exercise and always remember that God put you in the mess to test you.

    • It didn’t relieve my stress, it seemed to make it worse! I am just glad I was able to take something away from it! There’s always more to learn. 🙂 Thanks Ed.

  3. Oh man. This one trapped me in the corner. I go round and round with my dog Larry and it brings out the ugliest side in me.

    I confess. I struggle with messes, at home and in business. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Yeah, I think if we remember that it’s not if we face messes, but when… we’ll do so much better. It’s going to happen and we get to choose how we respond. Like anything else, takes lots of grace! Thanks so much, Floyd.

  4. Oh, wow, Jason, I think, though I hate to say it, that I would have reacted the same way you did at seeing such a mess, especially after all the effort exerted previously to make the house presentable. But your advice here is spot on -- we can’t accomplish anything positive by being angry. Getting it out of your system before going home was such a wise thing to do.
    May God always help us rise above the mess!

    • “May God always help us rise above the mess!” That’s so good! I think I need it on a t-shirt so I can remember it better (not even kidding). 🙂 Thank you, Martha!

  5. Good advice!
    God’s been working on my yelling and being snarky when I’m upset. My tone of voice is hard to control when I’m upset but I’m realizing it doesn’t help anything or anyone if I am harsh. God’s grace is helping me realize there are better, more gracious, ways to handle stress.

    Thanks for the tips and for sharing how you learned these things. God is good at using the mundane to teach us great things.

    • It’s a continual battle for me. I am learning though! Through God’s word, voice, and resources He’s put in my path--I get to see a better way and I want to choose it. Thank you, TC!

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