The phrase the messy middle seems to be more used than it was when I first started this blog. Often it is used in the sense of “Here is how to get out of the annoying messy middle.”
Well, how ducky. And simplistic. While I do believe that certain aspects of life are finite with a clear beginning, middle, and end, that is not my experience for most of life.
You know I’ve written several books. I know you’ve done your own amazing thing, birthed a human, donated hours to a cause you care about deeply, maybe live with chronic mental health issues.
Have you ever, in real life, not been in the messy middle? Those books I wrote? They are not “done.” Sure, they are done in the sense that the writing, editing, rewriting, formatting, and publishing is done. But in terms of the fullness of what it means to write a book, they are not done. They are on-going . . . and ever will be. (Ha, guess what? Thanks to the law of the land, they will outlive me by 70 years! To my heirs go the spoils).
That parenting you are doing will never be done. It will morph and change and enter a new phase. Only to morph and change and you will enter another new phase.
That cause you love and are committed to will never fully solve what it is committed to solving. Will change come? Yes. Lord willing you will leave the problem better than you found it, but the work will not be done.
And chronic illness—mental or physical—has good days and bad days, but it is never done. Often hope lies in more good days than bad.
After all these years, I still love the phrase the messy middle. I love it because it rings true this side of glory. So, I thought it might be time to put another stake in the ground about the messy middle and what the messy middle means to me.
Over time you embody more and more that you are a living, breathing, complex paradox.
1. You know more—and less—than you did.
2. You are moving away from—and towards—who you are.
3. You are grateful and able to risk being hurt.
4. When you are hurt you process it over time without choosing one of these unhealthy extremes: (a) Shake it off (“It’s merely a flesh wound!) or (b) let the hurt become the most defining attribute in your story.
5. You celebrate and grieve.
6. You are known for having convictions but not for being an unnecessary jerk about them.
7. Instead of being right, having more, or only looking at your number of comments/likes/follows, your measures are love, generosity, kindness, and joy.
8. You live in service to a greater purpose than yourself and you value your own well-being.
9. You are willing to change . . . and stay that same.
10. You grow in your ability to understand healthy tension instead of seeing every situation as a problem to be solved. (Hat tip to The Power of Healthy Tension: Overcome Chronic Issues and Conflicting Values by Tim Arnold)
Ultimately, you understand that with God’s help and the input of others, you are like a museum curator, curating your life.
And what an amazing exhibit the messy middle makes.
I love that I am not the only one who is drawn to this idea. Thanks for being here. Thanks for being my messy middle friends. High fives all around, even though we might have paint on our hands!
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash