What We Know Can Lead to What We Are Known For

This post first appeared on Velvet Ashes with the weekly theme Known.  We explored what it means to be known. To be known by a culture not our own. To be known by teammates. To be known by friends and family. To be known by ourselves. To be known by God.


A few hours after this is published I’ll be heading to the airport, boarding a plane and flying back to America. It is hard/easy to leave. Hard well, because a part of me will always be here and some of my people will always live here and now I don’t. Easy in the sense my friend is doing well in her recovery and yesterday took a huge turn for the good and doesn’t need me the way she has, so we both know the time is right for me to leave. Thanks for your prayers and interest.
what we are known for

In preparation for this post I’ve been thinking about the relationship between the words “known” and “know” (Geek alert, sorry). How does what we know influence what we become known for? How does what we know influence the ways we are known by others and ourselves?

As I waited to meet with a young woman I mentor, I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down people we are familiar with and what they knew. 

  • What did Joseph know? He knew he had been falsely accused.
  • What did Joshua know? He knew God was bigger than the giants in front of him. He knew it even when others didn’t.
  • What did Hannah know? She knew the ache of infertility runs deep.
  • What did Mary know was true about herself? She was a virgin, she had been loyal to her fiancé and her word, and she was the servant of God. She knew this even when it was hard for others to know it.
  • What did Moses know? He knew fear when he heard the call. He knew he needed help.
  • What did Ezekiel know? He knew that cooking over human feces was not something he was comfortable with and talked with God about it.
  • What did Esther know? She knew there may be a cost (she might die) and she was wiling to pay it.
  • What did Daniel know? He knew that some cultural rules are not to be followed.
  • What did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know? They knew, “Come what may, we will trust the Lord.”
  • What did Jesus know? To enjoy time with friends.
  • What did Paul know? He knew the truths of the gospel are had to fully grasp at both an individual and community level.
  • What did Lydia know? She knew how to be a successful business woman.
  • What did Peter know? He knew he needed to be willing to change with the leading of the Lord and what had been unclean was now clean.
  • What did Sarah know? She knew the joy of holding the longing she never thought would be fulfilled.
  • What did Jeremiah know? He knew to weep for the sis of the people.
  • What did Hosea know? He knew to risk relationship even when others may not understand.
  • What did Mary know later in life? She knew the pain of watching a loved one suffer.

I know (wink!) this is not an exhaustive list and many of these folks knew and were known for more than this one attribute. What stands out to me as I read over this list and let it soak into me a bit is the relationship between what they knew and what they were known for.  

Which leads me to ask myself, what do I know? And what am I known for? Limiting myself to three :

  1. I know life is messy and large enough to hold complexities. I am known for walking into messes with people (they don’t scare me) and looking for ways God can work.
  2. I know that appropriate laughter lightens the road. I’m known for being a bit zany and up for a good time.
  3. The older I get the more I know this one: I know relationships matter and are necessary. I’m known for finding ways to connect people to each other, history, ideas, and God.

If someone were to ask you what do you know and how does that influence what you are known for, how would you answer?

P.S. The depth and variety reflected in the Word is stunning, is it not?

Photo Credit: Silvestri Matteo via Unsplash

Dichotomist Thinking is One of the Worst Parts of Being an American

When I named my blog The Messy Middle I had one meaning in mind. I had not foreseen other interpretations that have surfaced. If only I was so clever! So no, I am not the middle child (I’m the oldest). No, my blog has nothing to do with being mid-life or middle aged. Though, I am middle-age-ish, that is not the point of the blog. And the final no is to The Messy Middle being a reference to China, The Middle Kingdom, as her name is in Chinese and where I spent nearly 20 years.

It’s not lost on me that a name with the word “messy” in the title became a bit messy in the understanding. Actually, it’s kind of funny and oddly appropriate.

No clear route

The Messy Middle is more than a cute blog name for me. It’s where I live (and I’m willing to bet you do too). In just the last two weeks I have had three friends face tragedies. A pilot brother crashing his plane and killing himself, his girlfriend and her three sons. Another brother caught in a drunken teenage drag race resulting in lacerations, a neck broken in two places, and a broken sternum. A third friend was diagnosed with cancer in a foreign country only to find out days later her mom had cancer too. Her mom died today, a mere two weeks after her diagnosis.

In the same two-week period, the leaves have started to turn. I got to ride a horse! And I continue to be amazed of the generosity of libraries.

Americans tend to be dichotomist in our thinking. We love clear labels and knowing where to put things. Is it a comedy? Tragedy? Rom-com?  Drama? While this type of tidy category works well for Hollywood, it doesn’t play out so well in real stories.

Dichotomist thinking has entered our thinking in the church too. I bet you’ve heard people say, “I’m a grace person!” Or, “I’m compelled to tell the truth.” Really? Is that the gospel? Pick a side :-) ?! No. The good news of the gospel is grace and truth. You can probably tell I’m starting to get a bit excited. If we were sitting across from each other, I’d be leaning towards you and I think my hands might start flying around as the words start to fall out of me.

The good news of the gospel is grace and truth.

It is crucial we get this! OK, not to scare you, I force myself to lean back, pick up my tea cup, take a sip. Take a deep breath, take a moment to peer at you and see if I’ve freaked you out.

Thankfully you’re too polite to bolt. I’m thankful for that :-) . I continue, a bit more calmly now. If we only have truth, God’s truth, and it’s not balanced with grace, what we’ve got is law. Lots of rules and we know how well that worked out! Paul explained in Galatians that the law, in part, was to show us that if we only have rules and truth, we will all fall short. We will all fail.

But grace all by herself is hedonism. When we all do what feels good without thinking of the impact on ourselves or others and just dance our silly heads off on grace, we end up with a community of people who have no limits. Too much a good thing and all. Picture me and a bowl of cookie dough without restraint. It ends up with me feeling, at best, sick. Picture those 17-year-olds whose lives took a very different trajectory after drinking and drag racing. Not that all is lost, but what a hard path they are now on. A path they did not need to be on.

We, as believers in both truth and grace, are called to be messy middlers of the faith!

So for me, The Messy Middle is where we hold truth and grace in tension, knowing some will be more drawn to one side or the other. We, as believers in both truth and grace, are called to be messy middlers of the faith! People who celebrate the joys of life and mourn the pain. People who are on the lookout for small mercies in big messes. People who say, but for the grace of God, there go I. People who live messy lives, resisting oversimplifications. People who fall towards each other and God, even when we blow it.


The post first appeared on Self Talk The Gospel – good stuff there! Check it out :)

Photo Credit Sylwia Bartyzel via Unsplash

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