How the Messy Middle Improves Your Life | The Value of Uncertainty

Published on
August 17, 2023

Uncertain Times

Life in this world is full of good times and challenging times. Challenging times can be seasons of great uncertainty, and this is when we most see what I call the messy middle. In a good from a few years ago, Pastor Jeff Manion called this time, The Land Between. Your time in this land will be difficult. It will be costly. You will be different when you exit this land. The question is, what sort of different? Will you be better? Will you have learned something beneficial to your life? Will you allow God to use your hard time to benefit others? Or will you grow bitter and allow that bitterness to take away your joy and your peace? Consider three scenarios:

You set a goal of completing a 26.2-mile marathon. You start your dream of running a marathon with zest. You have the best running shoes and clothes you can buy. After several weeks of running, your energy and zest for running begin to drag. You hit the messy middle. Stepping out the door each day for your run takes time and commitment. Some days you have it, some days you don’t. The same is true during the actual marathon. The beginning miles after the start are relatively straightforward. And then you hit “the wall.” You press through, and you cross the finish line.

You are in a job that does not feel like a vocation. It is a “for now” job. The problem is that it has been a “for now” position for a decade. And then, suddenly, the organization goes through a leadership crisis, and the company is forced to downsize. You are one of many who are told that your services are no longer required. Now what? You have a chance to redefine yourself and move in a different vocational direction. The result of this season of redefinition is that you will land in a vocation that matches the deepest part of who you are. The problem is the uncertainty of the messy middle.

During another season of life, you face a challenging health diagnosis by a doctor. You knew something was wrong. Finally, you make an appointment. After undergoing several tests, your doctor reveals that you have treatable cancer. The treatment regimen will be challenging, but the prognosis is good. The goal of treatment is to eliminate cancer from your body. And so, you begin the treatment with great hope. Week after week, you undergo the aggressive treatment required for the best outcome. You and your oncologist have a goal - to beat cancer. The problem is the messy middle and the uncertainty of a clean bill of health.

My Story

In an earlier part of my life, not too many years after marrying my wife, I went through my own messy middle experience. My father died unexpectedly in July. Not too many months later, my employment ended suddenly. These events caused a great deal of pain in my life. I had not adequately grieved my father, and now I was navigating a job loss. I turned inward, and during the long Minnesota winter, I found myself spiraling into a time of anxiety and deep self-doubt.

A friend of mine told me much of what I am writing here. He assured me that my life was not over, that I had much to offer, and that at some point, this season of uncertainty would be behind me. He also said that God would use this painful time for his glory without it being a platitude.

I remember being frustrated by this conversation. Quite frankly, I did not believe him. With the benefit of hindsight, I understand his words to be true. In the early days of leaving my employment, I enjoyed the extra time I had with my wife and children. They appreciated that I was no longer dealing with the stress of my workplace. At the time, I wondered aloud if I would ever have anything of significance to contribute. My father’s death brought me low, and my job loss was devastating to my self-worth and self-image.

During the ensuing months, I wrestled against fear and anxiety. I struggled to believe in the goodness of God. I look back with gratitude to our church, neighbor and mentor friends, grief group facilitators, and prayer counselors. All were instrumental to my regaining a sense of equilibrium. I’ve been through the fire of a long season of uncertainty. I lived through the land between. This uncertain time started with a sense that I would make it through the challenge as I had before, devolved into the darkness of panic attacks, to a place of finally navigating my grief, to a place of seeing the other side of the tunnel, and finally to the other side of significant change in my life which has had profoundly positive effects on me and the life of my family.

Your Turn

This challenge provides me with hard-fought experience seeking the clarity, confidence, and congruence I want for my clients. I cannot promise you the perfect outcome when you work with me. When you work with me, I promise that I will be present for you as we engage in conversations over clarity in your life. I have personally experienced the confidence that comes out of a deep sense of clarity about who you are and who God made you. And when you bring clarity, you are equipped to find unity between your most authentic self and your vocational calling.

In my coaching, I am careful about making promises. I promise to show up and be present with each client and group. I promise to give my best effort in my training. And I promise that if you show up with your best effort, you will be well on your way to finding clarity, confidence, and congruence in your life. I’d love for you to consider working with me. We will discover your most authentic self and work together to craft a journey toward living your best self. Schedule a free strategy call today.

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