Between any person and any other person is the middle. What happens in the middle makes a significant difference. For not one of us ever experiences another person without first passing—physically, emotionally, spiritually—through the middle. Picture the middle by looking over this simple illustration:
Any other person
Think for a moment about all that happens in the middle. Take a simple relationship, a husband and wife. Consider everything between them. They see each other, hear each other, touch each other—bodies are in the middle. Usually they are wearing clothes—fashion is in the middle. Usually they are somewhere—a house and parks and all manner of created spaces are in the middle. He was the first child of three and she was an only child—all the experiences of their families of origin are in the middle. She speaks English and so does he—language is in the middle. But she is from New England and he is from the Pacific Northwest—cosmopolitanism and hipster culture are in the middle. She grew up Catholic and he grew up Baptist though now they attend a Presbyterian church—religious expression is in the middle.
The list could be endless. There is so much middle to get through before getting to another person, it is a wonder any of us knows any one else at all. But somehow we do. Even, sometimes our relationships thrive. When they do, I like to think of it this way: There’s some good middle happening.
The truth is I am blunderer. But so is everyone else (except God, of course) who I try to get along with. Odds are if two blunderers try to make friends, it is going to be hard. But many of us have best friends. Where there are best friends, there’s some good middle happening. And so it is with all kinds of relationships. Where there is a happy marriage, there’s some good middle happening. Where there are loving parents and loving children, there’s some good middle happening. Where there are friendly neighbors, there’s some good middle happening. Where there are flourishing students, there’s some good middle happening. Where there is a healthy church communion, there’s some good middle happening. And so on, and so on.
Now, it is wisely said that the only person I can change is myself. If one of my relationships sours, I cannot fix it by fixing the other person. This is true. Yet, though I cannot change another person, it does not follow that I cannot change anything but myself. I can do some work in the middle. In fact, the middle is where the greatest work we people do gets done.
Artwork and stories and songs and histories—all that we do—occurs in the middle between persons. The middle is the locale of creation, and also reconciliation. We build muddy bogs or cobblestone paths in the middle; means to hinder or help us draw close to each other.