The Messy Middle

There is a place I dread visiting these days. For anyone navigating this stage of parenting, you must know this place. It is hidden behind a door in our home. I know who is there. Problem is…I never know what is there. Meaning, I never know what mess I will find. Are those clothes on the floor clean? Are all those cups necessary? Does an actual person live in here? I want to spend time with my teens, but does it have to be in here? Does it have to be in the middle of this mess?

And all the parents of teens said, “Amen.”

Yet…messy teenage rooms aren’t the only messes we hide from.

We run from the messy middle of our own making. Of life’s circumstances. Of the things we just don’t want to discuss, or even deal with all the time. We even run from the messes of others, because we aren’t comfortable carrying them. Or simply don’t know how.

We dread going through the mess of life, like we dread going into our kid’s rooms, and in our dread we hide. We hide behind masks. We plaster on plastic smiles and happy faces. Pretend that everything is “a-ok” so that the outside world believes that all is good up in our heads, and all in our heart.

Or we retreat. We may run and hide. We may shut ourselves out from the world so no one sees us. So we don’t have to explain away our suffering. Or because running feels like pretending to us. Escaping.

We all have messy we don’t want to address, so we dress-up under our masks. We may hope our mask will “pretty it all up.” We fix the outside up, because that masks the pain we don’t address inside. We fix the outside up, because if the outside looks good, and everyone can see it, then life is all good, right?

Sometimes we even mask up by numbing. With whatever mask we choose to hide away behind when we can’t manage to pretty up the outside. The numbing that takes place in the only way we know how to manage that pain on our own. Binge watching. Eating. Gambling. Drinking. Dating. Sleeping. Or just plain running.

We pretend until we have managed the pain on our own. And we have come out of our mess on the other side. Seemingly clean and unscathed. Or so everyone thinks.

We miss something when we mask up. When we run and hide and shut others out. Or numb it. We miss out on showing others what it looks like to live through the messy middle. What it looks like to truly surrender ourselves to our pain.

To survive it.

Because we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. That we go through it unscathed. Not bruised. Not changed in some way.

No. We went through it. We didn’t put on a mask. We felt it. We couldn’t just numb it. It was painful. We couldn’t hide.

There is something to learn from those who pour it all out, and wade through the mess before them.

Who don’t search for potions, magic elixirs, and people to help them hide from it all.

Who do the work to get through the messy middle stronger, braver, lighter, and more ready to love than ever before.

Anyone can hide.

It takes a warrior to wade. To fight. To muddle through. To pray on knees, and cry hot, hot tears of defeat, anger, or bitterness. Sometimes all of them at once.

To not hide from messy, but to let it hang out in the open. To open doors that are scary to venture into. To have conversations that are uncomfortable. To admit that the mess was of our own making. To take ownership, and get to working on the clean-up, instead of ducking under the covers, and waiting for someone else to come from behind the door to do it.

To admit that through the messy middle, you doubted you would even see the end. Had lost faith in God. Saw more darkness than light. And yes…those prayers? They were definitely more angry than praiseworthy.

It takes bravery and courage to wade through the mess that way.

It’s not comfortable. No. No, it is not. But it is possible-together.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yes, we make mistakes. And we can admit them to each other, and get through them…with Him-together. But we have to be willing to release our desire to cover up. To cover up when we stumble. To hide when we fall.

In the messy middle, there is no place for masks. They don’t help. They only hurt. They don’t heal. They only cover up gaping wounds with bandaids that actually require stitches.

Be brave. Open the door. Wade through the mess of the chaos lying at your feet. Sit down with someone you trust, and share your messy middle. Because this…our mess. None of it can be waded through alone. It’s in the mess we see the love of God. It’s in our mess, someone else can, too.

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