This is the question that’s been rolling around in my head over and over the last week. I seem to struggle in the sway. I’m either all in or all out. But why? Why must it be all or nothing for me?
Last week I went back to counseling. I want answers. I want to understand what it is that keeps me from embracing who I am and living a full life…even when it’s messy.
My house tends to be the meter by which I measure myself. It’s currently clean. Well, most of it anyways. I mean the window sills – which haven’t been touched in 5 years – are now sparkling white (on the lower level anyways). The living room curtains have all come down and been washed. The laundry is completely caught up and the clutter around the house is mostly gone. But. My hardwood floors are dirty (even though I’ve mopped them the last two weeks in a row). Then there is my “to file” box which is about to overflow and the carpets which desperately need shampooed, the cabinets which need cleaned out and on and on the list goes.
I ask myself, “Is it even possible to have the house 100% clean?” I mean, I’m trying, truly trying but it seems I’m still coming up short. Is it even worth the time? And there it is again — that sway. The all in or the all out. The, “how do I live in the middle?” question.
My neighbor casually said to me the other day, as I was talking about cleaning my house, “I could clean every hour of every day and it still wouldn’t be clean.”
I wanted so badly to disagree with her statement. And yet, I realized I couldn’t. It was here I was reminded that no matter how hard I try, I can’t escape the truth that perfection is not the goal. Learning to live in the middle of the dusty road that is life, with contentment and peace – despite the mess – that is the goal. Finding the point on the continuum that says, I no longer live out of my mess, but I embrace the journey by which God has destined to be my life and contently saying, “I’m in the middle where handprints, footprints, dirty laundry and icky muck sometimes accumulate, but it’s okay.”
When I think about this in terms of my surroundings it hits me, I can live life in the middle. After all, I’m content knowing there’s a few dishes in the sink, my bed isn’t yet made this morning, and there are crumbs on my countertop. I’ll get to them, but they don’t rule me and they don’t determine if today is a good day or not.
As I bring this post to a close, I find my mind wandering to the Biblical story of The Promised Land. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know this story has played a significant part in my journey and the lessons God has taught me and continues to teach me along the way. There was a time when I thought I understood the story fully. I didn’t. He continues, however, to reveal His story to me. Today, for that matter, it dawned on me that the story isn’t so much about making it to the Promised Land – as I had always thought it was – it’s instead a story about how to live in the middle. They weren’t in Egypt, driven any longer by slaves, but they also hadn’t yet made it to the Promised Land. The story, as I see it today, is a map of sorts. A map that reminds us to allow God to guide and direct by putting Him first, to remember that we aren’t in control, to not be afraid, to not build alters or allow other gods to rule our lives. It is a story, that shows us just how important community is, helping us see that without others pouring into our lives, we won’t win the battles. For Moses, lost each battle that he didn’t have someone there holding him up. We need instead, to lean on others and listen to the voices of those who are given permission to speak into our lives, as we sojourn through this desert land. We won’t live free of hardship, it won’t be perfect, but with God’s help and community we will one day make it to the promised destination.
For the first time in my life, I feel I have received an answer to my question of “how do I live in the middle?”
I put God first, I lean on Him, I ask for what I need, I surround myself with community, and I accept that my life will not be a life without hardship. I don’t live, as I have been, expecting that once I’ve attained something that I will find happiness. Or that my art, exercise, or any other obsession I might have, will free me from this life’s hardships. While they will help me process the difficulties of this life, and I do believe God has given them to me to help me along the way, He’ll never allow these things to take His place. I’ve often tried, and hoped that one of these things would free me from the struggles of this life. But they don’t. They are simply the tools I’ve been given to help along this dusty road called life.
Joyce Martin’s lyrics from, “Diamonds on a Dusty Road” seem appropriate to end.
There are diamonds on dusty roads.
There are blessings being born, around us as we go.
Life is hard, but God is good I know.
There are diamonds on dusty roads.
My husband, friends, family, art, counselor, and doctors are the diamonds I’ve come to treasure and give thanks for along the way. They are the ever present, unconventional help that God has provided, the water and manna that have nourished me in this desert-land called life. Today my eyes have been opened to see all of this as truth. So, here’s to moving forward and living the next half of my life fully in the middle where I embrace the mess that I am, the treasures given me, and the God that will get me to where I am going.
Have you embraced living in the middle or are you still waiting and believing the lie – as I did for SO long – that once you obtain this or that, that joy will be knocking at your door? Might you, too, embrace living in them middle. Together, we can do this!
Til next time,
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