If you are anything like me, you are painfully aware when you are in the middle of a story. Living in the middle can be so hard.
At times, the tension between progress, growth, and unfulfilled promises feels too much for the heart to endure. The journey itself can be brutal. Walking through illness, working towards dreams, and even normal life transitions can weigh us down. But, the part that really pushes me to the limit is the unknown.
The yet-to-be-known outcomes. They get me every time, which is precisely why I love Hallmark Christmas movies! Between the story always working out and the assurance that everything will be tied up neatly within 90 minutes, there is very little unknown in the mix. Thus, I can sit back and simply enjoy the ride. I let go of any fear or concern when she dates the snobby rich man instead of her good-hearted best friend, or it appears everything is headed in the wrong direction. I sit back, cozy on my couch, and know that she’ll end up with the good guy and that everything will work out. Thank you, Hallmark, for finally making a movie I can handle!
Sometimes, I wish I could skip the middle. I prefer resolution and happy endings. But, this isn’t life. Most of life is the middle of the story! At times, chapters come to an end, and pieces of our journeys conclude. But, let’s be realistic here. Most of our lives are the “middles” of many stories simultaneously being written.
How do we think and feel and act in the brutal middle moments? The moments when we honestly aren’t sure if healing will come or reconciliation is possible. The moments when the job or relationship or dream appears, at best, on life support and the only thing we know is that we don’t know the ending!
Do we hope for the redemptive outcome and answered prayer knowing that it might not come on this side? Do we try to accept things as they are while reminding ourselves that God is good and there are many things we do not have the perspective to understand? Do we try to “pause” our rushing thoughts and emotions until we get more information?! For the love, the middle is not for the faint of heart.
While I’m not always sure the best path to follow, I do know one thing. If I refuse to enjoy the journey and relax until I get my “the end,” I will probably miss 98% of my life. Somedays I want to hold my breath and call a time-out until I get some resolution. Yet, deep down I know that this isn’t the route to take. I want to enjoy life. I want to live life to the fullest! And, if a lot of life is the middle, then I want to learn how to enjoy even that.
To be fair, the middle isn’t all bad. Every good story has a middle (it’s most of the story!). It’s where character develops and desire wakens. It’s where people learn about themselves and bond with others. It’s where goals are born, and conflict happens; because, well, without challenges we don’t have much of a story. The middle is where the characters reach their climax, preparing the way for resolution. The middle is necessary.
What we must bear in mind is that the middle is just that...the middle! It is not the end. If you are facing some heavy stuff, take a deep breath and remind your soul of this reality: this is not the end of my story.
The truth is that we rarely see how resolution will play out while in the middle. Just think about it… how many of you knew your career, marriage, family, geographic location, or even tiny details of your life would play out as they have?!
Imagine slamming a novel shut halfway through and saying “I know enough. The second half is probably just more of the same.” Or, turning a movie off a third of the way through thinking “I bet the ending is the same as this scene right here.” It sounds absurd, but we tend to do the equivalent in our lives! The tension of the “middle” almost dares us to draw a conclusion in the present simply so we can have one.
So, where does that leave us? So far we’ve established the ill at ease emotions that accompany the middle and the fact that unless our lives are Hallmark Christmas movies they rarely hint at the ending. How do we enjoy living in the tension?
Even though the unknown of the middle still makes me squirm, God has helped me latch on to a few things that help!
The first is fabulously simple and incredibly powerful. A great way to step off the runaway train of thoughts and emotions is in reminding myself that this is the middle of my story! To call a spade a spade and face the facts that today I will not have a neatly-tied-up-bow of an ending. It sounds almost laughable but speaking the words aloud “this is not the end of my story, this is the middle” offers solace. It’s the truth, and yet we can easily disconnect from it when our emotions are in overdrive.
The second is to acknowledge my options. I can choose to remain uncomfortable until this specific area draws to a conclusion. I can write-off experiencing peace and joy in the in-between. And, honestly, no judgment here because sometimes the middle is so tense that to think we can experience peace or joy or pleasure while also grieving or waiting or yearning sounds naive. Nonetheless, Psalm 16:11 says that peace comes in His presence. And, no matter where we are in our story we can have His presence! Sometimes being very direct with myself and acknowledging that my options are to focus on His presence even in the tension OR to remain miserable until something changes, helps me recenter. Fixing my eyes on Him and experiencing peace in the midst of the middle is not necessarily easy, but it is always possible.
The third is to remind myself that no matter how things appear today, or what will happen in all my tomorrows, He promised that He works all things for my good (See Romans 8:28)! Instead of trying to wrap my head around what is happening or what I fear will happen, I can choose to anchor myself to the truth that He is working for my good no matter what.
Friend, the middle can be a scary and narrowing place. Be assured; you are not alone. Give yourself a ton of grace today as you choose to remind yourself that this is not the end of your story! Because of who Jesus is and because of His mighty work in our lives and our world, the middle is never the end. Take heart and ask Him to help you enjoy this day, even in the middle.