In a lot of ways, I think middles can be some of the hardest places to find yourself in. That’s not necessarily because they’re the most stressful or the most arduous places to be in, but perhaps more because of the perspective you’re afforded from the vantage point of middles. From the middle of most things, you can usually still see a shred of the beginning, where you started, and at the same time, you can probably start to see part of the end, where you’ll end. Regardless of whether the ends or beginnings are the points where things get better or worse, being able to see things from the middle can instantly conjure feelings of comparison and contrast between those two endpoints. If the beginning was good, it can be discouraging or difficult to see an end that doesn’t seem quite as shimmery, or even harder to see one that’s much worse before things start to get better. Similarly, if the beginning was trying, it can be easy to look at the end and all the good things, or perhaps even the minor improvements, that lie there and forget about all the work and all the trials you’ve overcome to reach the middleground where you’re standing now. Instead, having the perspective of the midway point can create feelings of longing for the end and bypassing the rest of the work you have to do to get there. Either way, middles can be just as difficult, if not more so sometimes, than the beginnings or ends of things.
Maybe this is just something that I’ve felt, but I think summers during school often evoke a lot of these middle feelings. Before it actually arrives, it’s so easy to get caught up in making lots of different plans for our summers, whether that’s work, an internship, family time, friend time, or whatever it might be. By the time late July rolls around, we’re in a prime position to both look back on a good part of our summer and see how much of it has actually lived up to our expectations, while also being able to look out on the next month or so that remains, wondering if it’ll be as good as the rest of our summer if it’s lived up to our expectations, or maybe pondering whether or not we’ll still get the summer we were hoping for if it didn’t. At the same time, I think a lot of us maybe feel a time crunch as well, with school rapidly approaching again and a return to campus and classes imminent. Or maybe if you’re graduated like me, the pressure can start mounting to find a job or lock down some solid plans for the next several months while everybody else goes back to school or work.
But I think one of the worst parts about middles is that it’s so easy to be robbed of our ability to be present. Rather than continuing to be in the place we are, taking in those moments and the lessons that God might be trying to teach us, it’s incredibly tempting to focus instead on the things that have already come and passed or the things that are still out there on the horizon, deluding ourselves into thinking that the best is still on its way. When we do that, suddenly our middles disappear altogether and we lose valuable time because we’re too fixated on either the past or the future to see what’s around us in the now, even if that now might be a challenging middle we don’t want to face for whatever reason, whether that’s because it’s a lull in activity or whether it’s a chaotic mess.
I think I definitely struggle with trying to be present in the valley of middles, but maybe that’s also a lot of us. While this summer definitely feels like a gigantic middle in between the end of one season and the start of another, I think perhaps many of us face middles of varying sizes throughout our lives and we could all get a little more out of them if we remembered, or maybe even forced ourselves to try and remain present during those times, even if it feels like we might be wasting our time or accomplishing nothing. After all, God is always moving, regardless of whether it seems like He is or not, and maybe if we were able to be present, we’d be more of aware of it.