Why is it that the middle of everything is the most difficult? The beginning is usually filled with excitement, anticipation and expectation and the adrenaline usually carries you for a while. While the end has its own celebration of patience, endurance and perseverance and the satisfaction of a job well done! It is the middle where all of the battles are fought, all of the decisions are made and challenges, obstacles and hurdles are faced. And some of these take us off guard, surprising even the most prepared among us.
The middle presents us with questions we were never forced to entertain before. Questions like “Now what?” and “What does all of this mean?” In the beginning we entered with certainty and confidence, but the middle throws us for a loop and we experience uncertainty, fear, frustration, disappointment anger, shame, and doubt. From the initial perspective in the beginning, the future was always bright, but the middle is ruled by the dankness of the mundane and ordinary. This sometimes produces disorientation in identity and direction and we wonder internally, “Is this all there is?” or “Has my life been a waste?” In the middle, we interact with our own thoughts asking deeper questions about ourselves and our lives while rarely admitting them aloud:
Who am I?
In the beginning, I thought I knew who I was. I was able to define myself based on the job I performed, the important role I played, or the special relationship I had. But in the middle, I don’t feel as valuable and worthwhile as I once did by defining myself as I did. Things have changed. Now I wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why am I feeling this way?” and “Why am I talking to myself?”
Where am I?
In the beginning, the future seemed clear, secure and filled with exciting probabilities. But in the middle, the support system that once provided security hasn’t proven reliable. Now I’m left to find a safe way forward to a uncertain future. As I try to figure things out in my head thinking up strategies to be safe, I’m filled with anxiety and dread. Now I wonder, “Will I have to face the future alone?” “Will everyone abandon me?”
How am I doing?
In the beginning, life felt like a struggle to be won and my efforts to control relationships and circumstances through my own strategies helped me to stay on top. Fixating on my assessment and judgment of things has helped me to prevent being dominated, tainted or upset. But in the middle I’ve exhausted my abilities to be able to control everything and everyone in my life and now I’m just resentful or angry. At who? At everybody!
The Middle is part of a Divine Conspiracy
In the middle, all of our exaggerated needs are exposed, the sinful passions that have always ruled our lives fail us and our shallow heart commitment to the Lord is exposed. But the middle sets us up for a deeper encounter with Christ to have our deeper personal questions of identity, significance and direction answered and to experience God’s goodness and favor at a level never before grasped. The middle is the opportunity for the Lord to impart hope to our souls as we learn to be satisfied in Him. In the middle we learn that God is Enough!
How do you humble yourself before a true enemy? How to you love and serve someone whom you know is going to turn on you and sell you out? How do you wash the feet of the one you know is going to betray you in just a few hours?
At the Thursday gathering of the disciples during what we call the Last Supper, the gospel of John tells us that the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him. (Judas was a wicked man whose evil flame was intensified by Satan’s fan). As Jesus one by one washed the feet of the disciples, at one point He came to Judas. While there is no recorded dialogue during this interaction, the understanding of the Scriptural text of the evening is that Jesus washed Twelve sets of feet. I marvel at the composure of mind possessed by the Savior during this scene! How do you wash the feet of the one whom you know is going to betray you?
John gives us some insight into the psyche of Jesus when he says in John 13:3, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. The composure of Jesus was a result of His self-knowledge, His relational identity with His Father and His clear sense of destiny. He possessed a full consciousness and deep awareness of self, identity and purpose accompanied with an experiential knowledge of His Father that carried Him through difficulty. This heart-felt knowledge, acceptance, affirmation of being, and love that He had received from all eternity from His Father overflowed in Jesus so that he could give Himself away, serve everyone, live with people’s dirt and even in love, wash the feet of the traitor.
Jesus could stick with the plan of redemption and maintain His clear purpose for coming to the earth because He was rooted and grounded in the love of the Father. He experienced the breadth, length, height, and depth of the Love of God which surpasses knowledge. He had this composure of mind because He had already obtained victory over death, His eyes lifted to his glorious triumph which was soon to come. And He (like us) was already seated in the heavenlies! What composure! What wonderful patience to endure the washing of the feet of the trusted friend who would sell him out! He knew that His death was ultimately a passage back to the heavenly kingdom (as yours will be) and this brought him a composure of mind in the midst of adversity. Through the entire length of His humiliation as a man, He is not even shaken until he must enter into being forsaken by His own Father, an experience that a child of God will never have to endure again.