“It is the space between…between letting go and being taken hold of…between the old and familiar and the new and unknown…between control and agenda and dependence and detachment. It is a space that is completely terrifying and unbelievably exciting. It is the space before your answer has come or your problem is fixed.” – Jim Branch, Blue Book
Middle ground is the uncomfortable place in between. I face middle ground every time I get a new pair of jeans. My waist isn’t a 36, but it’s certainly not 34 anymore and nobody sells 35. Add in that I’m not a 29 in length, but not usually a 30 either. Why am I wider than long? All of this is so fun to share with the “helper” in the store, who walks around the store shouting “do the 36s work?” Is it any wonder I’d prefer a round of waterboarding to a day shopping? So, if my jeans are worn out, now you know why! I get frustrated with middle ground.
There is always tension in between where we’ve come from, where we are now and where we’re heading. We haven’t arrived and we press to reach our goals. Even arriving at a place we thought we wanted to be, we’re not satisfied and quickly set our sights on a new destination promising more. We are forever in between. As believers, caught between here and there, our “there” comes when CHRIST returns. Though we have come to CHRIST with passion and desire to follow Him, we’re not yet in His physical presence…we are in between.
Growing up, my family was in to snow skiing. In the process of learning to ski, you learn there’s a difference between struggling, thrashing around on snow and actually skiing. There is this awkward moment where you have to press through the in between place. On the hill, your instincts scream, “lean back, lean uphill, and brace yourself for a fall.” In this instance, your instincts are wrong. Standing up, with your knees and weight over your skis, you find balance, you’re able to turn quickly and the skis perform exactly how they’re designed to perform. The middle place, the in-between, is terrifying. Learning to lean down hill feels crazy and frightening, but there is so much fun when you let go, lean down and begin to feel the skis working under your knees and feet.
In our journey with JESUS, it’s much the same. Caught between where we’ve been, what we have turned loose of, but not yet to what we’ve been called to be. If you’ve felt this, you’re not alone. Think of Peter, out of the boat, but not yet to Jesus. How far must safety in the arms of CHRIST have seemed to him after the excitement of the first step on water?
At the threshold, the moment of letting go and leaning into what feels like the abyss, it’s important to remember you were made for more than safe, secure normalness. If you’re responding to the Holy Spirit, you’re about to do something you were made to do. Like the skier, there’s life, joy, freedom, things you cannot imagine or dare to hope on the other side of the in between space.
“Be still in the Presence of The LORD and wait patiently for Him to act…” (Psalm 37:7 NLT)
The difference between the uncomfortable moments of learning to ski and life is life takes more time. What I’ve learned and observed in others is this middle ground in our journey lasts much longer than in my skiing example. It’s uncomfortable, but there’s something beautiful in what The LORD is doing in us in these in between times. From close friends I’ve heard these confessions:
“I’ve done it my way. I’m done with that. I want to hear from GOD what He wants…I’m waiting.”
“We’ve decided we don’t want any more Ishmaels in our lives.”
“I’m desperate. I need to know what GOD wants. And while that’s hard, I feel closer to GOD than ever before, because I want whatever He wants.”
“I’m not going one step further until I am sure I am following GOD.”
Leaning into JESUS under difficult circumstances, we are led into deeper intimacy in Him. Yes, we struggle; it can be hard, confusing, a test, but we learn to rely more fully on our Savior, which is exactly how we were made to live. JESUS said if we cling to our lives, we lose them, but when we give them up for Him, we find life. In seeking Him, desperate to know what He desires for us to do in our job, with our child, in our marriage, with our next big investment of time or money, we find Him. It isn’t easy, but you and I are being transformed in the process.
“The steps of the godly are directed by The LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for The LORD holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)