Have you ever felt like you were in The Middle? You have some distance from your past or from that life-changing event, but you still can’t fully see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know you are farther down the road, but you aren’t to the other side yet. You are in The Middle. The Middle is an interesting place. It is the in between. It’s after the crisis but before the new chapter. It is the period after the diagnosis but before the healing. It's the period after you take the leap of faith but before you land. The Middle is the aftermath. It occurs after the broken trust/betrayal but before the reconciliation. It’s in between the disappointment and the redemption. It is when we look around, and we feel lost and confused. How did I get here? This isn’t where I thought I would be.
The Middle comes after the tragedy but before the triumph.
Lauren Winner, in her book Still, says, “Here at what I think is the beginning of the middle of my spiritual life, I begin to notice the middle rarely denotes something good. Middle School-when girls turn mean, and all kids turn miserable- is that ‘wasteland of our primary and secondary landscape,’ the ‘crack’ between grammar school and high school. And middles are often defined by what they are not…”
The Middle is often not quick, not easy. The Middle is not fun.
In some ways, The Middle is much more difficult than the initial loss or crisis because in crisis there usually is a lot movement. Things are happening. There are doctors to be seen, funerals to attend, calls to take, emails to return, decisions to make. Adrenaline kicks in during a crisis and carries us through. It is human survival at its best. It is how we do the things we never thought we would have the strength to do. It’s when we lift the car over our heads and save the women and the children. Often in the dramatic crises of our lives we don’t think; we survive.
But then weeks pass. Months pass. The calls stop. The emails are less frequent. The treatment that is supposed to save you feels like it is killing you. Everyone else has moved on and is no longer asking, but your heart is still breaking. Enough time has passed that you should be in a different place. You shouldn’t continue to love him. You shouldn’t still rehearse what you would like to say. You shouldn’t still be this angry, this hurt.
See, what is so hard about The Middle is that you have nothing but time. Everyone else’s life seems to be speeding along. Yours seems to be stuck, to be in a standstill. The hardest thing about The Middle is waiting… waiting for it to be over… waiting for the money to come thru, the job to come along, and the test to be positive or to be negative. The Middle is difficult because you don't know how long it is going to last.
It is this question of how long that is so agonizing. Everyone wants to know how to get out of The Middle or make this period move more quickly. Tell me how to do grief in three months max. Tell me how to get over a break up in three weeks max. I suppose sometimes there are specific linear steps you can take. I suppose sometimes there might be a 1-2-3. But what I have found is that the only way out is through. Avoiding The Middle, trying to escape, or looking for a quick exit never works.
What we discover, though, when we get to the other side is that The Middle changes us. There is no going back. There is only moving forward, and in this moving forward, we learn some of our most valuable lessons. It is where we learn how to move forward. We learn that time and faith are not platitudes or the easy way out; time and faith are the hard answers because they're intangible and out of our control. But they serve as the walking sticks that help us gain our footing as we move through the mire and muck. We learn about hope. We learn we are not alone. We learn we are much stronger than we ever imagine because we are not alone.
The Middle is the in between. It is the period after the tragedy but before the triumph. It is where we keep moving forward even though we don’t see the path or understand the plan. It is the period where we recall past Faithfulness and we find evidence of continued Faithfulness. The Middle is where we are given the strength to bear down and say I am pressing onward to the goal for which I am being called and I’m not turning back.
Have you ever been in The Middle? What was it like? How did you get through it?