The Middle. Have you ever heard the song “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World? The chorus goes: It just takes some time. Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be alright.
I, recently, am just coming out of a season of feeling terribly stuck in the middle. Maybe you can relate. Not where you were, but not where you want to be. Maybe you have endured some disappointments. Maybe some things haven’t worked out the way you wanted them to. Maybe you have encountered some difficulties and delays on the road. Maybe all of this has left you feeling uncertain, unsettled and if you’re honest, even a little scared.
Every journey has a beginning, a middle and an end. We usually set out in the beginning with optimism and enthusiasm. Our hopes are high and so are our expectations. We set out on the path excited to see what the future holds and where God is taking us. We tuck away the promises of God into our hearts and set out on our journeys. Eventually, we all encounter the middle. The place of uncertainty. The place of making strides and taking steps, even though we can’t be sure of the outcomes. The place of wondering…Why is this taking so long? Why is the path taking me this way? Sometimes the middle takes so long that we even start to question…will the dream ever come to pass? I totally get it. So did the Israelites. God delivered them out of Egypt with a great show of His miraculous power, as He parted the Red Sea. They emerged from the other side victorious over their enemies and bursting with confidence and joy. However, it didn’t take too long before the journey in the Wilderness started to weigh on them and they began wondering why they ever left Egypt in the first place. Aren’t we all so much like this?
Here are some lessons that God has taught me in The Middle.
1. The Middle is about obedience. Sometimes God leads us to make a choice, or a series of choices, as an act of obedience to Him. Usually this requires a leap of faith, because obeying God rarely leads us to the easiest or most convenient path. It often requires enormous (sometimes painful) sacrifices and what’s more challenging is that we never know the outcomes. Obedience to God leads us out of what is familiar and requires that we leave our comfort zones. We are asked to take each step in blind faith, as the path that stretches out ahead of us twists and turns in ways we can’t foresee or prepare for. But we can be sure that God rewards obedience. He doesn’t trick us or deceive us. His ways are always intended to bring out the best possible blessings in our lives.
2. The Middle is a process that requires perseverance. One thing I am learning is that our initial step of obedience, that initial leap of faith, is much easier than staying on course. I think of Peter who stepped out of the boat and made a few initial steps before sinking in the sea, as he took His eyes off Jesus. Our initial choice to obey God can be marked with exhilaration and excitement. But weeks and months into the journey, when there is no visible change, we can easily become discouraged. The Middle requires perseverance. We must be resolved and determined that no matter what it takes, or how difficult it becomes, we will stay the course and won’t shrink back. We must decide that we are not going to try to jump over the fire, or walk around it, but that we are going to walk through it. We can be confident that we will walk out refined on the other side. And remember, even when things don’t appear to be changing on the outside, God is changing us on the inside. This process is preparation for what He has for us. He wants to be sure that when we reach where we are headed that we will be ready. He wants to be sure that we are prepared and equipped to receive whatever blessing He has for us. I have heard it said before that this journey is more of a marathon than a sprint.
3. The Middle demands surrender. This is perhaps the most challenging lesson that God has taught me in The Middle. He wants me to surrender. He wants me to give up control and to stop taking the steering wheel. In order to surrender, we must be willing to trust God. Easier said than done. Recently, God revealed to me some areas of my life that needed realigning. I was already aware of this, but my problem was that I kept trying in my own strength to fix things that I ultimately had no control over. I tried so hard to keep things together, to manage my own life and circumstances the way that I saw fit and to keep myself from losing that it had the opposite effect. Eventually, it seemed like my whole life unraveled. I wasn’t willing to take my hands off my circumstances and allow God to lead. Eventually, I smartened up and realized that I will never experience God’s ultimate best for me, until I raise my hands in surrender and allow Him to do the work He wants to do in my life. For me that means loosening my grip and opening my hand to the Lord, allowing Him to take over in some areas of my life that I previously held unto with a tight fist. It means trusting that God truly is good and that He really wants the best for me. And it means recognizing that I don’t need to know what the outcomes are to choose to trust Him. I guess if I knew the outcomes, I wouldn’t need faith huh?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)