The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens. Brené Brown.
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two… The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21-23)
Have you ever found yourself pulled into an adventure, and by the time you realize how hard it’s going to be, there is no way out? You are as Paul writes: hard pressed between living and dying.
Childbirth was one such adventure for me. In 1988 I accepted the call to parenthood when (you guessed it!) I became pregnant. The pregnancy was exhilarating… I loved the doctor visits, the childbirth classes and the baby showers. I also did a lot of throwing up. But I still felt like Ares, queen mother of the Amazons.
Even the labor was fun at first. We checked into the hospital, and the nurses and doctors were impressed with how this Ares was handling the steady and effective contractions.
And then everything changed—fast. Instead of the contractions seeming like powerful, painful ocean waves, they began imploding inside me like bombshells. My whole body began to shake, partly from the pain and partly from the power, but mostly from the bone-chilling FEAR.
I drew upon every ounce of physical and emotional strength that I had cultivated in my mind and body for 23 years, and it was wholly insufficient. I started crying out for help. Dave had never seen an Ares of the Amazons act like this, so he RAN for help.
The nurse bolted in the room and assessed the situation. And then she spoke the words I will never forget: Katie you are in the transition phase of labor. It’s horrible AND effective. If you can trust this process, your body will carry you and your baby safely to the other side.
I love words, and sometimes words save me. And this nurse—Marge as I remember her—saved me with her words. With her permission, I stopped trying to rise, and I surrendered to grace. I don’t remember much of the next 45 minutes; only that we made it to the light.
The Transition Phase of Labor is how I understand the “messy middle” of a struggle. The messy middle is when we’re drowning in uncertainty about the future, and we’re not sure which would be better—fighting on or going home to God.
And the hardest thing about the transitional messy middle, is what Brené Brown learned from the Pixar team and the Apostle Paul wrote about from prison:
Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens (Brené Brown, Rising Strong).
When have you walked a dark passage, and then (by grace) pressed on into the light? What role did human or divine connection play in your salvation?
Starter Prayer and Practice
God of Salvation, help me slow down my story and observe us walking through the messy middle together. Give me eyes to see the magic; and give me a bit of faith in my ability to navigate the dark.
Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown
We are heading into week two of this 6-week study. The focus for week two is Chapters 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.