Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caught Somewhere in Between

I am so excited to finally be sitting down to write this post.  I have wanted to write this one for a very long time—probably about two years.

From the first moment that listened to the words of the Casting Crowns song “Somewhere in the Middle” (The Altar and the Door CD), I felt deeply inspired and was filled with countless thoughts that went along with the truths spoken in the song.  I’ve wanted to express those thoughts in writing since then.  This document has been sitting in my computer files titled, but empty of words until today.  God only knows what I would have written back then; I only have the words He has given me for today.  

On Thursday, the song, “Somewhere in the Middle”, randomly played on my iPOD and the inspiration resurfaced.  It was a perfect day to hear it, and I replayed it over and over again.  It was a day of struggling with myself, with others, and with some aspects of life in general.  I was feeling grumpy and displeased and wanted particular circumstances (and me) to be different.  My expectations of others and life were not being met in the way I wanted.  I realized the problem and wanted to be free from the expectations, while at the same time unable of letting them go.

Practically every day I am faced with feeling torn between who I long to be and who I find myself to be.  I find myself frustrated between who I am expecting others to be and who they currently are.  I want to find freedom in giving others the freedom to fail my expectations.  Heck!  I want to have NO expectations of others—oh, what amazing freedom that would be!  But, so easily, I trap my own self in needless frustrations by having expectations for others to meet. 

On any given day, I am torn between knowing what is best to do and what I end up doing instead.  I find myself torn between standing firm on what I believe in my mind and spirit and flailing weakly with what my heart feels with sorrows, fears, and doubts.  I battle with longing to be respected and admired in the sight of others while equally despising such a thought and only desiring Christ in me to be the One who is seen when people look at me. 

Such is the reality of living this earthly life each and every day as I intertwine it with great hope that God is working in me and in others and changing us moment by moment.  Yet, even the strength of that hope fluctuates depending on my mood or the circumstances surrounding me.

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle

I can honestly say that I find myself somewhere in between all of the things spoken of in the song and many more.  How many times have I said to God, “You take control of this situation!” and the very next minute, I’m outlining a whole list of ways in which I can bring change in the situation.  I don’t really believe that I am “somewhere in the middle” of all the different aspects, but I know for certain I do not find myself where I used to be.  I am also certain I have not yet arrived to where God will eventually lead me.  That place will not be found while I am on this earth in this human body.  While I am in this human body, I will struggle and be humbled by the nature of being in a physical world and in a physical body with physical desires.  I am a daily work in progress and so is every other person that lives on this earth. 

While listening to the song this past week, I was reminded of what I had recently read in Romans 8:28-29, “Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren.” 

God’s plan is to conform all to the image of His Son.  We are all in the process of conformation.  Some are designated and called to have an earlier or more evident process of conformation, but God’s plan is to ultimately conform all whom He foreknew.  There is no one born whom He did not foreknow.  And “…whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His son.”  He is fulfilling a particular plan in each person’s life.  Everyone’s path is rough and bumpy in some way, oftentimes with seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way.  However, “What, then, shall we be declaring?  Not that there is injustice with God?  May it not be coming to that!  For to Moses He is saying, ‘I shall be pitying whomever I may be pitying.’  Consequently, then it is not of him who is willing, nor of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful.”  (Romans 9: 14-16)  Our journey was designed by God, and He will take us from beginning to end.  We do not get ourselves to the end; He gets us there.

We are all His work in progress.  I realize that so many do not believe this or are even aware of it.  It is of no regard to God whether we believe it or are aware that we are His workmanship; He still continues to do His work.  Our belief does not matter one iota to Him accomplishing what He has intended to achieve.  He will be God, even if you don’t believe that a God exists.  He loves even those who curse Him or ignore Him altogether.  He will not stop being Who He is or doing what He is doing because of what we believe or don’t believe.  Who He is does not depend on what we believe about Him.  He is not “caught somewhere in the middle”.  He is almighty, sovereign God of all.  He is the beginning, the middle, and the end.  He is fullness and satisfaction.  He is completeness and wholeness.   

It is easy to find ourselves being complainant, aggravated, or downright angry about who others are, what they do or don’t do, and how they fail to meet our expectations.  Believe me, I experience these types of feelings often.  There are times I just want to “fix” someone whom I think needs “fixing”.  Yet, just like us, they are also in a process of conformation.  For the most part, we are not granted the supernatural sight to see the conformation work which God is achieving in the lives of others.  That is between them and God.  Many times, it looks like God has completely abandoned His work in the lives of some people because we observe terrible chaos or destructiveness by our definition.

“…to whom He will, He is merciful, yet whom He will, He is hardening.  You will be protesting to me, then, ‘Why, then, is He still blaming?  For who has withstood His intention?’  O man!  Who are you, to be sure, who are answering again to God?  That which is molded will not protest to the molder, ‘Why do you make me thus?’  Or has not the potter the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel, indeed, for honor, yet one for dishonor?...”  (Romans 9:19-21)

There are moments in life when we may play the part of being vessels of dishonor.  At times, I have been such a vessel in my past.  But He has shown me that even as I have been a vessel of dishonor in the past, He is making me to be a vessel for His honor as He completes His work of redemption in me.  God redeems all things in His perfect time.  It will not be anything about what Mary Ann accomplished.  It will be, “Look what GOD has done!”

As we find ourselves struggling “somewhere in the middle”, can He possibly be teaching us something about His super abounding grace?  Christ-believers tout God’s amazing grace all the time, while equally making it something about what man must do or earn.  Too often, Christ-believers find themselves caught “somewhere in the middle” of knowing the fullness of God’s grace and making it about what a person does or does not do. 

Grace is grace or it is not.  “Now if it is in grace, it is no longer out of works, else the grace is coming to be no longer grace.  Now, if it is out of works, it is no longer grace, else the work is no longer work.”  (Romans 11:6)

As we find ourselves on our unique journeys, somewhere along the way of being conformed by God and somewhere between…

Cold and hot
Old and new
Who we are and who we used to be
Wrong and right
Darkness and light
Who we were and who God is making us to be
Control and surrender
Being masters of our own destiny and surrendering to God’s plan
Staying in the boat and walking out on the crashing waves
Wanting more and contented peace
Hate and love
Pretending and being real
Chaos and peace
Lies and truth
Dishonor and honor
Works and grace
Pride and humbleness
Contempt and compassion
Ignorance and understanding
Sorrow and joy
Doubt and faith
Abiding by the law and freedom in Christ
Weakness and strength
Brokenness and wholeness
Who we believe God to be and Who He truly is

…let us always remember this:

“For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all.  O, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!  For, who knew the mind of the Lord? Or, who became His adviser? Or, who gives to Him first, and it will be repaid him?  Seeing that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all…The God Who makes the world and all that is in it, He, the Lord inherent of heaven and earth, is not dwelling in temples made by hands, neither is He attended by human hands, as if requiring anything, since He himself gives to all life and breath and all.  Besides, He makes out of one every nation of mankind, to be dwelling on all the surface of the earth, specifying the setting of the seasons and the bounds of their dwelling, for them to be seeking God, if, consequently, they may surely grope for Him and may be finding Him, though to be sure, not far from each one of us is He inherent, for in Him we are living and moving and are…to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen!”  (Romans 11:32-36, Acts 17:24-28)

And let us always remember He passionately loves us all even as we are caught “somewhere in between”.  We are exactly where He has us placed us.  He is certainly not abandoning us wherever that may be.  He will faithfully lead us further on until His masterpiece is complete.

Blessings wished for you as you find yourself “somewhere along the journey”…

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