Monthly Archives: November 2017
Reporting live, once again, from the Messy Middle.
I’m just gonna go ahead and capitalize that phrase, since it’s become a helpful marker for wherever the heck I am right now. I’ve been writing to you over the last few weeks about this idea of being in the midst of difficult circumstances. I am not at the beginning, but I am not at the end either, and that means I am smack-dab in the interminable middle, which seems to be undefined and unresolved.
From the conversations I’ve been having with many of you, I am — surprise, surprise — not the only one who is in some sort of Messy Middle. The hard part is that we want to be airlifted out of the middle and safely delivered to the other side of things where at least there is some clarity and closure. And wouldn’t you know, we just have to be here, where we are, in it. Or as my dear friend Linsey said the other day, “You have to go through it in order to be delivered to it.”
I really didn’t like her for saying that, though I know she’s absolutely right. Ugh.
This morning, I was reminded of a story I shared in Breathing Room, about a friend who was feeling completely sidelined in life because of protracted and chronic health issues. A man said to her, in a sort of prophetic moment, “You are not on the bench. You are actually on a bridge. You feel completely stuck and like you’re going nowhere. But you are actually on an important path that is leading somewhere significant.
Many of you are in the midst of impossible circumstances. And you are suffering in silence, maybe even in shame, and I’m writing this down today for you, giving voice to your experiences that perhaps no one sees, no one knows.Or at the very least, no knows how very ongoing and unresolved your situation is. No one knows that it still hurts, still wakes you up. You’re still in it.
In my own way, I see you. And I believe that these sacred bridges do, in fact, exist in our lives and where they take us is hard won and nearly impossible. Except . . . except some how the hardest things bring forth the craziest beauty. The kind of beauty that would have never existed unless there had been suffering.
We don’t always know what God is doing from beginning to end. And that is practically impossible. I so get it. And he also set eternity in our hearts, and so we are hard-wired with this desire for wholeness and for transcendence. We aren’t hard-wired for Messy Middles. Yet, these are the times we find ourselves entirely dependent, which is uncomfortable and also where God really shines. In our weakness, the Divine Mama Bear is stronger, more expansive, deeply protective. This is our hope, the source of peace that passes all understanding.
We turn our eyes on God, and the things of earth grow strangely dim. Circumstances aren’t solved, but somehow our souls find an inch or two of rest. And that’s really, really something.
Someone once told my mom, “No matter what you’re going through in life, you always have music and you always have flowers.” She shared that with me last week, and I thought it was one of the more gorgeous things I had ever heard. No matter what we are going through, we have the capacity to be moved and healed and touched and held by Beauty. (That’s because he set eternity in our hearts.) I find great comfort currently from Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” and always, always, always from my beloved hot pink bougainvillea, which is a constant reminder that we are meant to live, bold and brazen.
So, here we are, in the Messy Middle together, joining hands on the sacred bridge that is taking us from something to something, believing (even just for today) that something brave and enduring is being galvanized in us.
Today’s mantra, in the words of our beloved Dr. Maya Angelou, is simply this:
STILL, I RISE.
There are a lot of different ways to be homeless, to feel displaced in your own life. Relationally homeless. Spiritually homeless. Physically homeless. Professionally homeless. Even emotionally homeless, as waves of tragedy and violence fill this world we are trying to live in and love in.
Homelessness is disorienting. Where do I belong? Who are my people? What belongs to me? What is my place? Where can I rest? Those of us stuck in the midst of one of life’s seemingly interminable messy middles feel this acutely, lurking in no-man’s-land.
What do we do when we don’t feel tethered, grounded, placed?
The above Scripture from Psalm 68 has long been a favorite of mine: “God makes homes for the homeless.” What a beautiful piece of poetry. Have you experienced this? Radical displacement followed by God finding you, reaching out to you, and building you a shelter? Maybe the shelter wasn’t the mansion on the hill you were hoping for. Maybe it was a lean-to, cobbled together out of the most unlikely sources. But extraordinarily beautiful in its own way because it was something made from nothing. Resurrection.
I remember when our family moved overseas with two toddlers and a new baby on the way, and the reality of displacement burned in my chest every day. To the point that I felt desperate at times. While we were there, God found me in the strangest possible ways. Hot pink bougainvillea. Handmade rugs. A tiny Ethiopian nanny. A friend. A new baby born in a room where a huge arrow pointed to Mecca and a prayer rug hid in the bedside table.
He has the wildest ways of finding us. Of sheltering us. Of building us a home when we are refugees in our own lives.
After dropping my kids off at school this morning, I parked in the driveway and passed one of the two potted bougainvillea flanking the garage door. The one on the right is blooming, healthy, abundant. The one on the left, pictured here, is scraggly, boney, maybe even dying. But at the end of a long brown lifeless limb, was this cluster of irreverent fuchsia blooms.
How is this possible? I don’t totally know or understand, except to say that I think this is somehow one of the most important things we can learn in life: He makes beautiful things out of barrenness. He makes homes for the homeless. And he often does it against all odds.
If you are feeling homeless today in any way — not sure where you’re going to live professionally or relationally or emotionally or physically — you’re not alone, and God has not forgotten. He can spin beauty out of dust. That’s his way. And, personally, I’m holding him to it.
Love to you,