Dear You: The Muddy Middle

Dear you,

We’ve got to have a talk. And today, we’re gonna talk about grace.

You beat yourself up way too much, and far too often. And if you’re anything like me, there are some days when your head feels like the world’s most miserable highlight reel of things you wish you could forget.

You yelled at your kids.

You snapped at your best friend.

You missed that deadline.

The only thing missing from that moment of road rage was your head spinning, and you’re seriously contemplating calling in a priest or two.

Or maybe it’s much more than that. Maybe you’ve spent the past year – or even years – in a place you know you just weren’t supposed to be. Maybe you should’ve removed yourself from a story that wasn’t yours a long, long time ago. And all you feel is regret, regret, regret.

No, we can’t take words back. No, we can’t rewind and play out a situation differently. No, we can’t necessarily reclaim lost time. But what we can do is claim the time we have from here on out, and give ourselves a healthy dose of grace to go along with it.

See, here’s how I picture grace:

You’re sitting in the waiting room of the Emergency Department. You’re beat up and bleeding all over the chair and you’re in paralyzing agony, and the nurse keeps coming to the door while calling your name, telling you to come on back. No, you may not be in perfect condition afterward and it may not fix all your problems, but at least you’ll be on the road to healing, you know? It’s a step in the right direction.

But you keep saying, “Nah, I’ll be okay. Take the next person. I’ll wait. I screwed up and deserve all this, anyway.” But the thing is that, the longer you wait, the longer you sit there and let the wounds worsen, the more agonizing the pain becomes. The more energy you lose. It drains you.

Don’t let yourself die in the waiting room when help is calling your name. Give yourself some grace, and if others are trying to extend it, accept it. And don’t ever let yourself believe that you don’t deserve good things. You deserve every good thing this world has to offer, including that grace.

Stop trying to convince yourself that your mistakes define you. Stop trying to convince yourself that you don’t deserve the good things, the special things, the pure things. Stop believing that that thing in the back of your mind, that thing you can’t let go of, is what names you.

It doesn’t.

Here’s the thing: I think we’ve fallen so in love with before and after pictures of life that we forget to acknowledge the strength that pushed us through the middle. The middle is muddy and feels impossible at times, but good gracious, I’m so thankful for everything the mud teaches. And I’m thankful for the friends who look at you while you’re covered in that mud and remind you that you’re not done, and that it’s not over. I’m not sure there’s anything more special than that person who sees you at your lowest, who sees you when you feel like you’re drowning in the muck, and still smiles and says, “I know you can do it. I know what you’re made of.”

When the time comes to accept the grace, take it. When the time comes to be the grace-giver – and at some point, it will – be the one who says, “I know you can still do it.”

If you’re still breathing, there’s still time. Claim that time. And make the best of it.

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