and letting it
– Ann Lamott
These words speak to a reality in my life these days. Life has shifted in new and uncomfortable ways. We are in the middle, deep in the dark place, before the turn. We left one certainty and have not yet reached the other side. In my favorite books, this is where the hero takes heart and stands firm in the face of insurmountable odds… and presses on to victory.
We don’t celebrate the middle, where the hero gets tired, worn by fear and hours logged. But here, in the middle is where the hard work is done. It’s where we decide to keep going even though the outcome is uncertain. It’s where we learn that even faithful hearts can be overcome by doubt. It’s where we find that our passion and courage may not be enough to carry us through. It’s where we begin to know that we must rely on those who journey with us, for the courage and humor to see us through.
Here in the middle, I find what I’m made of.
I measure my resources and determine what matters.
I battle the fear and doubt that hang back on brighter days.
I strive for confidence amidst lingering regrets and uncertainty
I look for a way to keep going and not give way to discouragement.
But if we are honest, this is the part of the story we recognize. This is the part of the journey that speaks to our everyday battles and ordinary lives. I read epic fantasy stories full of dragons, dwarves, and hobbits because the stories remind me that even in fantasy, the middle is hard. The days of our lives are made up of beginnings and ends… and lots and lots of middles. We spend our hours, most of our lives living in the middle of the story. Where we aren’t entirely sure how it will all work out… if it will all work out.
Today, I am in the middle of lots of things. Relationships, career transitions, and ongoing work areas are all in progress, are all under way. It is good for me to remember that the middle is a good part too. It’s hard and dim, but here is where we decide who we want to be. What we want to be known for. It is in the deep middle that we decide if we will give up and go back or press on to something new.
One of my favorite Bible stories is about the middle. When the children of Israel followed God through the Jordan River into the Promised Land, He commanded that the priests lead the way into the swollen river and stand in the center (in the deepest part) until the entire assembly had passed over. Once the nation was securely on the other side, they were to each take a rock from the river to set up as an altar of remembrance on the other side. This monument would serve as a reminder to their children and grandchildren of God’s faithfulness and provision (Joshua chapter 4).
I love that this monument would come from the deep middle. The point of no return is always the hardest spot, the place where you lose sight of what has been and before you can see the far off shore of what will be. Here in the deep middle, we fight, we flounder, we decide, and eventually we press on to see what will become of us. Today, I am picking up stones from the middle to remind me of this space, to remind me that this is a well-trod path, and to remind me that I am not alone.
What will you gather from the deep middle? What will remind you of the journey, the struggle, and the growth that comes from just keeping on?