This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24]
So much of life is lived in the middle.
I have this distinct memory from middle school that every once in a while resurfaces in my heart (usually around big life transitions). I was 13 and riding in the car with my mom on the way to softball practice. The school year was just about to start and I was super excited because I was finally an 8th grader. “Mom, I can’t believe I’m an 8th grader,” I exclaimed. “It feels like yesterday I was just starting middle school!” My mom shared in my joy like she always does and we talked about the year ahead and all the fun and challenging things my 8th grade year would hold.
In that moment my 13-year-old self felt like she had arrived — like she was finally on top of the big hill called life. To this day, I can still feel the joy and peace surrounding that car ride conversation.
Of course, if you’re on the other side of 8th grade, you probably know what happened next. Halfway into 8th grade, I started to think about what was next — high school. Just like that I was no longer on top, I was back in the middle, tolerating the present while fixating on the future.
High school was thrilling until college became my focus. College felt like the adventure I’d been waiting for until landing a job (literally any job) became my sole intent. The restlessness followed me into the internship, the first full-time job, the promotion, the new company…
Then, of course, there is the rest of life dangling all the other “nexts” right out of reach. When you’re single the big question is, “Are you dating anyone?” When you’re dating someone for more than 3 days the question is, “When are you getting engaged?” When you’re married the question is, “When are you starting a family?” (I can answer that one for you: we started a family the day we got married to each other)
I know I can’t speak for you. Maybe you’ve never taken a ride on this struggle bus of life phase discontent. But I have taken a cross-country road trip on this bus, several times over now. And you could blame my wiring, my personality type, my strengths test results, my childhood, my hormones, or you could say I’m just driven, or high-achieving, or a textbook Type A oldest child…
But here’s what I think.
I think I’m just really bad at being. I think that, somewhere along the way, after that sweet car ride with my mom, I got really bad at enjoying life because I bought into the lie that if I’m not moving forward I’m behind. So I stopped enjoying just being and filled each day with doing so I could keep moving forward.
But we’re never not moving forward, are we? No matter if we’re being or doing, there is always something next. Life is always going on. So why did I feel stuck in the middle all the time?
Because I started looking to others to set my pace. It’s not as exciting to be in one stage of life when everyone around you is in a different stage.
Maybe you find yourself feeling stuck in the middle too, just wishing away your present in hopes tomorrow comes faster — whether it’s graduation, or career, or marriage, or babies, or home ownership, or retirement, or traveling the world…
But like me you’ll probably find that once you arrive at some exciting life stage, you’re actually right back in the middle of it.
So I’m learning to savor the season I find myself in. I know it’s possible. Because there is a 13-year-old girl deep inside of me who is delighted to be an 8th grader, and she keeps popping up with this memory of a car ride conversation every time I try to rush off to the next big thing.
Please don’t read what I’m not writing here — there is nothing wrong with achieving, and goal-setting, and dreaming, and doing, and looking forward to new stages of life. I will never be giving up those things. However, I will no longer squander the treasure of the present. It’s too precious. I will no longer despise being in the middle of it, because the middle of it is where most of life is lived.
We’re renovating this house, and we’re right in the middle of it, and the natural question is, “When will the house be finished?” It’s a very fair question. I would like to know the answer too.
I believe one of God’s greatest gifts to me is this life partner of mine who has never been afraid of the middle. In fact, Bruce really revels in the adventure of it. Because he knows we’re moving, and he’s not distracted by anyone else’s pace. In fact, what I really love about him is how he celebrates everyone else’s pace while remaining totally confident in his own.
He’s the kind of man who walks through the rubble, throws his fists in the air, and exclaims, “Babe, we own this house!” When he sees my eyes go wide as I take in the mess, he pulls out his phone and asks me to record my top 5 favorite things about my new kitchen.
“Because when it’s done, we’ll want to remember this,” he says. I remember the car ride and start to share…