Hopefully we all learned in English class that each story has a beginning, middle, and end. 😉 Even when we are reading a story, it is the beginning and end that grab our attention and keep us reading, right? We sometimes get bored or lost in the middle. The middle may even tempt us to put the book down or stop reading altogether.
The middle is tough, but to be quite honest with you, every good story is written in the middle. It is where the plot and characters are truly defined and developed.
Welcome to #ThankfulThursday and the conclusion of our WHAT I WISH I KNEW series.
Did we learn everything there is to know the past five weeks? Probably not…but we did hear some amazing stories, didn’t we?
And these stories reminded us that we are not alone, that we all have “stuff,” and that God can use our past mistakes, regrets, and failures for our good and His glory.
I want to again personally thank each woman who contributed to this series. On the outside we appear one way to the world, but we all have things underneath that make us who we really are. These brave women willingly took off their masks and were vulnerable enough to teach us through sharing honestly and openly.
And the storytelling does not have to end! AT THE CROSSROADS wants to continue to be a place where we can share our stories within context of a caring and committed community. A place to meet and learn how we can connect our lives and our faith by following others who are doing so with grace and truth.
All of this talk of storytelling made me return to one of my favorite books on this subject: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
Here is how Donald Miller so aptly describes living the middle of your story:
“It’s like this when you live a story. The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative and you’re caught in the water, the shore is pushing back behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The other shore is inches away and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of you’re boat and walking the distant shore, looking back to see where you came from. The first part of a story happens fast, and you think the thing is going to be over soon. But it isn’t going to be over soon. The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. It’s as though the thing is teaching you the story is not about the ending but about the story itself, about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. The shore behind you stops getting smaller, and you paddle and wonder why the same strokes used to move you but they don’t anymore…because the paddling doesn’t move the boat anymore and the far shore doesn’t get closer no matter how hard you work. The shore you left is just as far and there is no going back, there is only the decision to paddle in place or stop, slide out of the hatch and sink into the sea. Maybe there is another story at the bottom of the sea? Maybe you don’t have to be in this story anymore? Maybe you can quit and not have to paddle in place anymore?
I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger.”
~ Donald Miller,
Like a boat stuck between two distance shores, being in the middle can be frustrating, unsettling, and full of insecurity.
Charlotte Gambill in her book, The Miracle in the Middle, further explains that the middle is where we will encounter the toughest storms. Why?
“In the middle is when we are at the most vulnerable point, too far away from the last shore to reach back for safety and not close enough to the next shore to grasp it. In the middle the test is internal, while all the challenges are external.”
~The Miracle in the Middle
Gambill also confronts the question we often ask ourselves when we are stuck in the middle, like little kids in the backseat of long car ride: ARE WE THERE YET?
Yes, I have asked those questions too as I live, breathe, work, serve, and love in the middle of my story…
What is my destination and how do I get there?
Why is this so hard?
What is taking so long?
Is this all there is?
Is there something more for me?
This is too hard! Can I be in another story?
Then a new thought occurred to me…standing AT THE CROSSROADS is really like being in the middle. (I know I’m pretty quick, aren’t I?)
And as we stand there in the middle, a lot can happen if we choose to stay in the story God is writing for us.
This is what I wish I knew and what I am beginning to finally accept and embrace:
Character is molded in the middle.
Faith drops anchor in the middle.
Patience and persistence are tested in the middle.
Pain fuels passion in the middle.
God meets and teaches us in the middle.
Are there days I want to skip a chapter to get the good parts? Sure.
Are there trials and troubles that make me want to close the book altogether and get a new one? Definitely.
But He’s writing my story…not me. And if I keep following and trusting Him, I know my story ends well. And so does yours.
So on this #ThankfulThursday let’s take the time to be grateful for our stories and for our middles. We can stand at the crossroads together and encourage one another as we journey to the other side.
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