Messes Worth Making {Your Relationships in Midlife}

One thing I have always taught and believed:  If you can't be totally transparent about your life, don't lead. 

Like, seriously.  Don't even lead a parade. 

Because the truth has a way of coming out, and the thing the world needs to see out of leaders isn't perfection.  The world needs to see its leaders have the ability to administrate the manifold grace of God into every life-situation. 

There are those who believe in miracles, and there are those who depend on them.  There are those who believe in grace, and those who depend on grace.  There are those who believe in grace, and there are those who administrate grace into their own lives first, and then into the lives of others.

By New Testament definition, we call those people who have learned to administrate the Finished Work of Christ - we call them "elders" or "shepherds" or "leaders".  And yes, it all goes back to transparency.  Don't hide your stuff.  Don't mask your issues.  You don't have to air your dirty laundry, but those to whom you relate, both in life and in leadership structure, should be aware when there are significant issues manifesting in your life.

Me?  I just tell everyone what is happening and get it over with.  My deepest struggle?  Someone, somewhere knows all about it, I promise you.  More often than not, many someones know.

We reached a point in mid-life, summer of 2010, when our family relationships lurched wildly from very close and  consistent and mostly sweet, to chaotic and painful and mostly angry. 

The summer of 2010 was when we finally were forced to make it official:  We had prodigals in the parsonage.  (That is also the title of an excellent book , by the way). The Preacher and I had seen hints of it coming, for a couple of years.  We had fought tooth and claw for the spiritual lives of all our children, and the battle for the lives of our sons had come to a dramatic head.

We were devastated.  We were encouraged by our leaders to take a long sabbatical, but that was out of the question...more than anything, it was out of the question because only three things in life brought us any comfort in that season: our two beautiful daughters and answering the call of God on our lives.

We did take that summer to rest, and The Preacher did nothing but preach.  (And any preacher will laugh at that statement..."nothing but preach"...because the preparation of a sermon is almost always a grueling spiritual battle, if you are preaching right.)

And we took care of each other.

Friends, your marriage is the most important earthly relationship, and is the singlemost determining factor of your health and effectiveness in the middle.

We crawled to each others arms, my Preacher and I.  We stayed on the same page, no shame and no blame, and together we let God stop the bleeding and heal our wounds.  Since then, relationship with our sons has become beautiful again - we are managing by the grace of God to stay in sweet connection with them, while not lowering the standard.  They don't live under our roof - they cannot, and be making the choices they are making.  They are grown men anyway, and all grown men should be on their own.  But they come and see us weekly, and there is genuine warmth and affection and beauty to be found...even in this place where we find this strange middle.

Our relationship with our boys sometimes feels strange - it is not what it was before -  yet it has never been estranged.  This is because we applied what we knew of the Gospel to our every day life.  We administrated the grace of God into the situation.  We embrace process without lowering standards.  Grace is more than something we believe in, it has become what we depend on.

But we will always, always bear the scars of that summer of 2010, and the subsequent pain of every day, week, month and year since.  When you love God so passionately, a prodigal is a grief that never quite goes away.  You learn to live with the sadness until the prodigal comes home.

And so we wait.

Because relationship is about the ugly-beautiful.  And it is always a mess worth making.

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