I’ve been sitting here for an hour already, per usual, asking God where I should direct my thoughts, lots of things swirling around in my brain, but nothing really “sticking.” So, in an effort to just start something, I went to the title line and wrote, “Day 20….”, and I realized if we were at Day 20….of 40….that meant we had reached the midway of this journey. So, I think that’s worth some pondering, don’t you? =)
“Middles” don’t get nearly the respect they deserve. They don’t rise with the anticipation and hopeful abandon of “beginnings”, nor do they fall with the climactic grandeur of conclusions. They’re just the place between start and finish, beginning and end, neither here nor there.
But without the in-between….cakes wouldn’t bake, lawns wouldn’t grow, romance wouldn’t bloom, babies wouldn’t be born, tides wouldn’t regulate and strangers would never become friends. Come to think of it…..most of life is lived in the “middle”, don’t you think? That’s where “the rubber meets the road” – where children are raised, where work is done, where we live out what we really believe life to be, not just what we hope (or fear) it will be….it’s where the daily decisions are made about how to treat one another, whether honesty and integrity are important, and for the Christian….it’s the long journey where all life meets faith.
As I sit here for a bit on the side of the Lenten road, meditating on the life and sacrifice of Jesus, Day 20 – the middle – feels exactly where I should be:
- The angst and apprehension of Day 1 (and whether or not I could write this journal) have faded into resignation….even at times turning to anticipation.
- The time I’m spending grappling with where I am finding God each day, though painful as a writer, is helping me focus on something other than just getting through the day. (Also, in the sentence above I inadvertently(?) just typed “grappling with God”….which is probably more truthful!)
- I am finding surprising comfort in knowing that there are friends, some I know and some who have just stumbled on this little, temporary blog, who are traveling with me, and I sincerely hope you all are finding your own connections with God in whatever way you have need.
- There is so much I don’t understand yet….but I don’t have to….because this isn’t the end – it’s just the middle. =)
History tells us that the entire life of Jesus, as a man, was lived in 33 years. Furthermore, for the first 30 of those, we assume he lived a quite ordinary life, as there are no significant writings of him before that time. We know he was the son of Mary and Joseph (though Joseph seems to drop out of the picture at some point), and a brother to an undetermined number of siblings. He was born in Bethlehem, raised in the Galilean city of Nazareth and was a carpenter by trade, a skill passed down to him by his father. We’re very familiar with the prophecies of his coming, the vivid story of his birth and the point at which Jesus begins his teaching ministry at the age of 30. For three years he taught of God’s love for the world, healing and connecting with all who could take the risk of following. Then, finally we know the story that leads to the end of those 33 years – the road to the cross and his final breath, which released life eternal for us all….such a tragic ending, and a glorious beginning all together!
We know the beginning and the end of the life of Jesus as written in the Bible. But what I’m suddenly curious about is what happened in those 30 years that were…..in the middle….of the life of Christ. I’ve only ever given it passing thought before at best, because there is so little written, and it would be guessing on my part to try to fill in those years with too much supposition. But tonight, I really, really want to know about those years! Because to have had the strength….the commitment….the faith to endure the last weeks of his life, there had to have already been years and years of learning to hear God’s voice, of building the kind of trust that he would need one day. I don’t believe these things just “came” to him without steady parenting and teaching that reminded him that he was precious and dedicated for a special purpose. Though he clearly understood scripture and referred to God as “father” from a young age, he was still human. I imagine he had to learn to trust, not just as a child, but as a teenager…a young adult and into manhood. Imagine Jesus at 19…..or 23….25….29…. When did he realize where the “end” of his story would be?
Guys…..Jesus’ life had a “middle”, and a long one at that. And though I can’t tell you a specific thing about it, I feel a kinship with him in a new way tonight. There had to have been trial and error as he endeavored to know and love God from this human form. Even if his understanding were perfect, he still must have……grappled…..with many of the same things we do, and if he gained wisdom and strength – if his faith was deepened as a result, what encouragement that brings!
God wants to live with us and in us through it all – not only at the start of hopeful beginnings and as we cross the finish line. Most of life is lived in between, where we learn, discover, try, fail, win, lose, receive tremendous blessing and also suffer tremendous loss. Jesus did, and grew strong enough in his relationship with the Father to not waver when faced with eventual suffering and betrayal.
Though these days are so very difficult as I navigate the waters of grief and disappointment, I am also sensing, if not quite seeing yet, the light of hope on the horizon from this rest stop at Day 20. Here’s to taking the next steps ahead with God’s relentless presence and grace along the journey of the long, the winding…..the great….. middle.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”