This is how it goes - "it" being any venture that is worthwhile and grand enough to challenge us out of our comfortable lives meandering towards predictable and non-remarkable mediocrity. At the beginning, you get a great vision, you have faith, you exude hope, you are inspired and inspiring, you believe anything is possible, your soul is big and fat and floats above all circumstances, you speak in absolutes, and the goal seems just inches and minutes away.
At the end, when you have finally seen the grand project or journey through to its completion, you are tired, happy, wiser, more humble, thankful, able to see the divine plan and purpose in all the twists and turns you experienced. You are more convinced than ever of the absolutes, your faith is richer and deeper and stronger, and your soul has a solidity that only the practical living out of what you hope in can bring.
Both of these are most satisfying places to dwell, and we love them. As people of faith, these are the times we relish and talk about and gravitate towards the most. Just ask anyone for their favourite passages in the Bible and they will most likely jump right to one that exhibits either great vision or a grand lesson learned through difficult times.
But what about "the middles?" Those long weeks and months and years in-between the beginning and completion of an era when things are unsettled, when you are lost and floundering and angry at God and clueless and everything you see around you is in direct opposition to the vision you thought you had. When you have virtually no energy and the energy you do have is negative energy, when you don't get along with your family and friends and leaders and co-workers, when the bank account is seriously ill, when things are at a standstill and you are tired of pushing and shoving and working with no perceptible movement on any fronts, when you question every absolute you were prepared to tattoo on your arm just a few short days or months before, and when death and sickness and depression and just plain bad luck follow you around. When you curse the day you called yourself a visionary, when you cry and pray and then mostly just cry, when you don't want to get out of bed in the morning and you don't believe anyone understands you anymore, and when hope is a four-letter word.
So much of the narrative that chronicles the story of God and his interaction with those he created and loves (a.k.a. The bible) is a record of "the middles." And God did not cut these stories short, focusing only on the inspiring beginnings, including a few troubles just for interest and literary tension, and then quickly jumping to the satisfying conquest . He did not edit the troublesome parts out of Job, nor the Psalms, nor all those depressing stories of kings and politics gone bad in Chronicles and Kings and Samuel, nor did he chop out the redundant day by day drudgery of the laws and regulations and censuses of Numbers and Leviticus.
The middles are what most of us live in much of the time. And it is what makes faith, faith. We can't see the end, no one can skip to the last page of the chapter and read ahead; the book is still unwritten and we are making it up as we go along.
When I was working at an art gallery, someone asked me what I thought about portraying anger and bitterness and doubt and misery and angst in art. I said it would be a very powerful study to have someone paint the different stages of their particular struggle while they were going through it, and not just record it from a perspective of time, having already come through it. I don't believe I knew what I was saying. First of all, who really wants to see someones pain that close up? And more importantly, who of us are able or willing to be that vulnerable? I know I am not, at least for the most part.
I hesitate to write anything here that does not end neatly, that does not have at least some of the loose ends tied up, that I have not already wrestled and come to terms with. I must have some peace and closure and wisdom before I can show that part of my life, or so I think. And that is not the pattern I see when I read the Bible. It is often raw; things don't go the way they should, emotions and misperceptions run rampant and circumstances go awry without explanation or tidy conclusions.
So let me be honest for just a moment here. Today, I do not see where I am going. I thought I had a good and godly idea but so far, every avenue I have explored leads to nothing. I prayed and changed my attitude and embraced truth with humility, but outwardly, things remain the same. There is no improvement in our finances and job situations and the move we are contemplating seems pretty stupid right now. I would back out but that scares me more than going forward. It is hard to be positive and hopeful right now. I am tired of putting my energy into things that never seem to get anywhere, like cleaning a house that never stays clean (yes, my house is in post-holiday untidiness right now - ugh I hate it!), so I am struggling with half-heartedness and that makes me sick for I hate half-heartedness and condemn it in others. So I am a hypocrite on top of it all as well. Tomorrow might be better, but most likely it will be more of the same. I am tired of the same. Can we please move on?
Welcome to "the middles." God does not hide them and neither shall I.
Thanks to Shane for encouraging me along this line of thought. (www.fakerepublic.com)
This is a tri-tree in the bush right next door.