I gave my life to Jesus about 15 years ago, as an adventurous teenager at a Friday night youth service. I learned a lot about how to walk with God from being active in the local church. I also attended many conferences with big time preachers and worship bands.
Having been around church and Christian events for a while, I have heard many sermons preached. I am in awe of the men and women who stand behind the pulpit to do this kind of ministry.
But something I wish they had included in their inspiring “Jesus-will-make-you-walk-on-water”, “grab-the-hem-of-His-cloak”, “hang-on-to-the-boat-during-the-storm” brand of breakthrough preaching, is some information about the middle part.
The beginnings of things
Being faced with a challenging situation, regardless of the magnitude, is something I had come to expect and could imagine. Life’s proverbial curveballs, whether tragic or less so. The beginning would encompass some life-altering event, big emotions, and the start of a fight to hold fast to the knowledge that God is good and will bring you through.
But the reality of the shock and emotion may leave you feeling as though God’s grace and kindness has gone silent. The kind of silent where you squint your eyes shut tightly to try and listen for it.
I had heard this echoed at the start of testimonies of breakthrough, during sermons, read it in the Bible and seen it play out in real time. This is the start of the miracle, right? I had chanted the catchphrases taught to me by preachers, and recited the promises of God in scripture. I could anticipate what the beginning part of the miracle might involve.
The ends of things
There’s so much excitement and beauty in the breakthrough. You know, those fire coming down from heaven moments like in 2 Chronicles Chapter 7 where God shows up in a big way and you know you’ve made it through the really hard thing. The moment where you feel your heart lift after a prolonged period of grieving loss. Miraculous healing in your body. Your prayers have been answered.
All of these moments are miraculous and feel sparkly and fizzy and overwhelming in their excitement. Whenever I read Genesis Chapter 21, I imagine the day that Sarah and Abraham gave birth to their son Isaac must have felt like the spiritual equivalent of eating an entire bag of pop-rocks candy all at once, but for their hearts.
The end of things seemed to be an event where God makes a way. The lessons I learned from the Bible and sermons preached and life experiences lead me to expect that the endings involve a moment where you feel the scripture “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans Chapter 8, verse 28) holds true. I always pictured that the endings feel like relief.
The longest parts of things
The part in between, the middle places, the day-to-day where we live in between the beginnings of the hard thing and the ends of the hard thing is what I felt unprepared for.
As I have walked with Jesus over the last 15 years I find myself surprised at every curveball that the longest part of any great breakthrough isn’t the start, or the explosive miracle at the end. It’s always in the middle.
The middle often isn’t the sharp pain you experience at the start of something tragic, and you’ve not yet reached the part where the shock has worn off and the pain isn’t the loudest part of the story.
The middle, in my experience, often feels more like swimming in shoulder deep water in the ocean. The depth at which you can stand still and take a break, but it’s too deep to be able to walk. In order to move forward, you have to swim without any land in sight, for an unknown length of time.
In the book of Ruth, we read about Ruth following Naomi from Moab to Bethlehem. I encourage you to read their story, and learn about the tragic start and miraculous ending of this portion of their lives.
I often wonder what their middle felt like. I am yet to hear a sermon about what Ruth’s internal monologue might have been as she followed the mother of her recently deceased husband to a foreign nation where she would be discriminated against due to her heritage.
How many times did she have to talk herself out of turning around? Did she wonder whether this “feeling” of going with her mother-in-law was her being lost in her grief, or did she suspect it was the leading of a God she was told she didn’t belong to?
The middle of the story is where our endurance is tested and our faith grows. The middle is often the part of a season where you feel you’re walking alone. But the unexpected joy in this can be the closeness of Jesus in the middle portions.
Enduring the middle, though often very difficult, can be how we train our hearts and minds to see the smallest of blessings that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Jamine Gardner is an Occupational Therapist specialising in paediatric development and disability. Jamine runs a children’s ministry program for children with special needs at church, and is passionate about seeing people walk with Jesus in every stage of their life. Jamine runs a paediatric practice with her best friend, loves going to the beach with her dog, and laughing with the people she loves.