“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
1 Timothy 2:5
Lately in my life, I have been feeling like a middle man. When I was a kid sometimes we would play this game called Monkey in the Middle. Two or more people toss a ball back and forth and one person is in the middle trying to steal the ball. Some kids liked being the one in the middle, but I never did. It always seemed so lonely in the middle. I know it was just a game, but I even kind of felt bad for the kid in the middle. These days I am in the middle, but now it isn’t a game. Sometimes in life we find ourselves in hard situations where we feel torn between decisions or even people. Unfortunately such feelings and struggles are side affects of living or having emotions, and some of us struggle more deeply with these things.
While we are walking down childhood memory lane, let me use another illustration. Do you remember the toy Stretch Armstrong. I never had one, but I had friends who did. It was a simple doll that looked like a wrestler. What made it so cool was that you could pull on his arms and legs and stretch him quite a bit. You could have four kids each taking an arm or a leg and stretching him in four different directions. Sometimes as an adult my life feels like Stretch Armstrong, except I am not a toy and it is definitely not fun. Being the middle man or being pulled in many different directions can be mentally excruciating. It has been in my life. I have had to learn the hard way that sometimes I can’t make everyone happy. A wise pastor once said to me, “You are a peacemaker.” The comment came as I discussed with him the most recent incident where I had been throw into the middle and was being pulled in multiple directions. I went to talk with him that day not to find a “fix it” answer to my current struggle. I knew what needed to be done, but it might cause conflict and I hated that. The truth is that it often feels easier to flee than to face what is hard. For me the thought that I might hurt someone is one of the deepest struggles of my soul, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Sometimes even the most skilled peacemaker can’t make peace with everyone.
So what do you do? Well, I am not sure I really have a complete answer to that question. I am still working through that myself, but in truth that is not the purpose of this post. Let me just say one quick thing about it. You need to prioritize! You need to consciously have an order of precedence for the most important things in your life. For me it goes something like this…..1. God 2. My family (wife, kids) 3. Other family members 4. My Church 5. My job…..and the list goes on from there. You won’t always be able to be the peacemaker. So when it fails and you are pulled in multiple directions, priorities can help you know what must be held onto most dearly.
Like I said though, that is not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to encourage you. Let me leave you with two thoughts to consider when you feel pulled apart in the middle of everything. The first is that Jesus knows what that feels like. When Jesus was here on earth, he was fully God and fully man. That human aspects meant that he faced the same struggles we do. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that he was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We often think of that in the physical sense; that he was hungry, tired, etc. The truth is that it applies to the mental and emotional as well. Jesus knows what it is like to be in the middle. Remember that his disciples often argued who would be greatest in the kingdom. At one point James and John’s mother came to ask that her sons have the place of honor. We know from Scripture that this caused strife within the ranks. What about Mary and Martha? Mary sat to listen to Jesus while Martha did all the work in the kitchen and became angry that she had no help. She then forces Jesus to resolve the conflict between her and her sister. I say all that to let you know that when you find yourself in these hard situations, Jesus knows what it is like to be there too. In fact back in Hebrews 4:16, we are told that because of this understanding we can feel comfortable coming “boldly unto the throne of grace” in prayer.
Secondly and similarly to the first point, remember that Jesus is himself even now the middle man. I Timothy 2:5, calls him a mediator between God and man. “Mediator” essentially means middle man. Jesus is like a permanent middle man between God and man, and believe me we need him. Romans 8:34 describes him as making intercession for us. You see, we mess up sometimes. We sin and we do the wrong things. God is a righteous and holy God. He is angered by our sin, but that is where Jesus steps in. He acts as our middle man because his sacrificial death on the cross makes it possible for us to be right with God and forgiven. In those moments it is as if he says to the Father, “Remember what I did? This one is mine and is associated with my sacrifice.” Now, obviously God the Father doesn’t need a reminder……after all he is God, but instead of seeing our sin, he sees Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus is the ultimate middle man. Remember that in those moments when you are being torn apart. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, and such situations force us to look to God for true guidance and wisdom. Just remember that you serve a God who knows exactly what you are going through, and who is even now going through the same thing on your behalf.