Adele made it to the other side. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but “hello from the middle” isn’t as catchy.
Everyone loves a story with a good ending. The one where Jesus rescued the disciples from the freak storm. The time God answered Elijah’s prayer for rain after a many year drought. The one where God used Esther to rescue His people from mass slaughter. The one where Jesus healed the woman who had been sick for years.
Good stories. Pleasant morals. Faith builders.
You know what I can’t stand? A movie that ends without being resolved. A book that appears more tragic than hopeful. A story that’s stuck in the middle.
I don’t want to be trapped indefinitely on that rain-pounded, wave-hurled boat with the disciples. I don’t want to wrestle with whether God is big enough for all this. I’m too busy panicking and trying to figure out where my contact went after that last wave. My stomach is queasy. I like to watch lightning from my living room window with some wine. Jesus is clearly sleeping, and if he wanted to help me he would have brought an alarm clock or something. Why was I following Him again?
I’d prefer not to sit with Elijah as he prays for rain the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth time. I’m fairly certain I would have given up already if I was waiting that long on my barista to get my latte right. My faith and reputation are on the line. I don’t have so much as a darkening sky to assure me the cracked, parched earth beneath me will ever receive a drop of moisture. Can’t we just skip to the part where we sing and dance in the downpour? Assuming Elijah is down with his life as a musical.
I’d rather not be plucked up out of my home to be made the pawn of a dangerous king. You can keep your tiara and beauty treatments, thank you very much. I don’t want to know the tortured mental journey that preceded her decision: “And if I perish, I perish.” Did she really come to a place of peace, or was it a kind of grim resignation? Was she too depressed to care anymore? I think I would have simply left the king a sticky note on the royal fridge and avoided the whole awkward potential death thing. I don’t want her story’s middle.
And I don’t want to be in the middle of desperation from chronic illness like that woman. I’m fed up right with her living in fear, waiting on a cure that won’t come. I’m tired of believing in hope that doctors will help, that someone will eventually reach out and see me. I’m tired of wondering if God cares. I don’t want to be overwhelmed in the thick of a crowd grasping for a dirty hem after all else has let me down. Did she wonder if it was worth it to put her heart on the line…again?
The middle sucks.
As my friend recounted her “middle” stories- she reminded me that they strip us down of what we think we know. They threaten to uproot everything we think we stand on. The middle makes us ask, “What kind of a God would…?” “What’s the point in trying if…?” “What if the promise isn’t true?” The questions themselves aren’t bad- they force us to see things differently.
But the problem with the middle is that we don’t have the “aha!” ending glasses to see through. So we full-on react in survival mode, like a crazed bee-chased person wildly karate chopping the air, fleeing in bumbling zig zags. At least I do.
I thrash around like my three year old sometimes does when I put his in his bedroom at night. He’s mad that he can’t read another book, that he can’t have more water, but mostly that he can’t come out. So he screams and throws things, crying in hysterics.
But I tell my son that even though he has to stay, I’ll come in and be with him.
At first he says no, and continues tantrumming. (Which isn’t a word, but ought to be.) But I can always tell that he’s really wrestling with his own emotions, with what he ultimately wants, and there’s always a breaking point where he admits that he’d rather have me with him than rail against me anymore.
He accepts the promise of “with” even if it means waiting through another night to see the other side of that bedroom door.
And I guess I’m saying that’s me. This whole time I’ve been flipping emotional furniture in my brain, acting like God has locked me up and it’s his fault and what on earth is He doing?!! And at the same time I’m crying,
“Please don’t leave me, because you’re all I have. Please don’t go because even in my doubts I have no greater hope. Please forgive me because I’m not quite ready to let you in to just hold me, but I desperately need to know you’re waiting for me on the other side of that door.”
I like the lessons from the end. Or before the problem ever starts maybe? But the promise I’m holding onto right now is that the middle of the story is what actually shapes us. The middle of the story is where our convictions confront our deepest fears and we sink or rise. You don’t get to walk on water on dry land. You don’t get to pretend in the middle.
My fists are still a little clenched and I just bought a bunch of paint so I can hide for a bit inside a project and process my disappointment. My wrestle. (Although the paint was on sale, if that makes the middle sound less self-indulgent.)
I don’t have the cute moral to give you right now, just the awkward picture of a thirty year old woman throwing an all-out tantrum on the floor. It isn’t pretty. But it’s real. And I’m daring to believe it’s accomplishing something steadfast and hopeful inside of me that I couldn’t have found otherwise.