I was listening to a podcast a few months ago and the pastor was talking about the familiar story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God clearly told that deliriously happy and perfectly carefree couple that they could eat anything, ANYTHING, they wanted except for one, only ONE, tree. They were not to eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden or they’d surely die. And what did they go and do??? ugh… I happened to be stirring peanut brittle at the time which always gives me ample time to think and ponder. And have great discussions with my 15 year old about all the dangers or challenges that come from stuff in the middle.
Being in the middle of the sports field, in most sports, is not ideal. It’s anybody’s game in the middle. It’s where all but a few are to try to take possession of the ball. The good stuff of a game happens at the goals/baskets on the ends. (I say most sports because it’s different with Table Tennis and Tennis. Yes, I wanted badly to type Ping Pong but I did live in Singapore and they won Olympic Silver one year while we were there so out of respect, I type Table Tennis but you know I’m thinking Ping Pong.)
The best offices are window offices. Right? The important ones, the CEO, the owner of the company get those offices. Who wants to be in the poorly lit, uninspiring and sterile cube farm in the middle?
Typically the center seat of an airplane is less than desirable. Can I get an AMEN?!?
When shopping in clothing stores, all the expensive stuff is in the middle. The clearance racks, the good stuff (IMO), are always around the edges. I rarely shop in the middle of a clothing store.
The middle of the grocery store just screams danger doesn’t it? That’s where all the junk food is. It’s always best to shop the perimeter of the store. Where the fresh stuff is. Where the healthy stuff is.
Then there’s the whole thing of Middle School (oh my!). Let’s not even go there. It makes me shudder.
On the flip side, there are some really good things to be found in the middle. Like the cream in the Oreo, The middle child who all too often doesn’t get the recognition they deserve. The stuffing in the middle of the turkey. The middle of Momo (one of our favorite Nepali treats). And let’s not forget Middle Earth.
Perhaps a bit of a loose illustration but I do have a point so I hope you’ll stay with me.
I love a good story. A good story that is properly structured has three parts, right? The introduction, the body and the conclusion or the beginning, the middle and the ending in more generic literary terms. Revolutionary, I know! A story would not be a story without all three parts. A story has to start somewhere, some stuff has to happen in the middle and it has to end. Profound!! haha! The story begins with setting up the plot. The middle is where the story happens and the ending ties it all together. The middle, the plot, the body is where the story is most vulnerable. Where it can take any turn the author wants it to go. Are you with me still? The middle of our story is where WE are most vulnerable or at risk. Where it’s anybody’s game. Where our Author takes us (if we let Him – which gets into free will of man and that’s another post for another day) where He wants us to go.
My husband and I were talking about some big Christian words the other day. Justification, sanctification and glorification. I’ve heard these words in church settings my entire life but they are big words with big concepts. I’m a visual learner so I came up with the word picture of a sanctification sandwich. Here’s my somewhat ridiculous attempt to explain these three hard words in a visual I put together. Perhaps it will bring a side of humor to the table. (punny, huh?)
The slices of bread:
Justification: what happens when we accept Christ. It’s a one time deal. Wham bam and you’re done. You’re in.
Glorification: what happens when we leave our earthly home and go to be with Jesus forever. Our junk stays. Our good goes.
The stuff in the middle:
Sanctification: this is the meat, the PB&J, the tuna salad, melted cheese or the BLT. The stuff in the middle. The stuff that’s hard. The process we have to go through to get to the grand finale.
Sanctification as clearly as it has been presented to me goes like this:
Sanctification is the process the process of becoming.
Becoming the person who performs the purpose in which we were designed and created.
Becoming perfect as He was perfect.
Becoming the Adam or the Eve who would never think of eating from that fruit in the middle of the garden.
Becoming like Christ.
The process of becoming is more about progress than perfection.
To be a professional basketball player you have to play basketball and a lot of it. To be an accomplished musician you have to take lessons from accomplished musicians and practice a lot. To become like Christ you must hang out with Him. Learning and doing and and trying and sharing and becoming.
My “middle” has not been all cookies and cream and colorful sprinkles. It’s more like the big tall sandwich with a zillion layers. Layers of hurt. Layers of pain. Layers of grief. But also layers of good, Layers of joy. Layers of grace. Still, though, too many layers to possibly be able to fit in my mouth or digest on my own. He’s with us right in the middle of all of our middle. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
When I was 7, I became His daughter (which you can only do once, btw, – becoming someone’s daughter twice is just not possible) because I believed and committed my life to doing His will (justification). From 7 until 47 until ??, I’m in the process of becoming like Him (sanctification). Someday I will be complete and be able to be with Him (glorification). This gets me really excited and gives me such hope that one day this sanctification process will be over, no more layers added to my sandwich YAY!!, and God is going to help me deal with all those layers and welcome me home.
In the words of the ever so wise Willy Wonka… (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yes, I know some people think this was creepy but I love this movie! Maybe my strange sense of humor is one of my layers. See, I need God’s help!)
[Willy Wonka claps enthusiastically as his special musical showpiece goes up in flames]
Willy Wonka: Ha ha ha, wasn’t that just magnificent? I was worried it was getting a little dodgy in the middle part, but then that finale… Wow!
And then there’s glorification: Wow! (enough said) I can’t say much more about this one because I haven’t experienced it therefore I have no real concept of what glorification will be like. I know that it’s nothing like I could imagine or dream up so I’ll just have to wait and see.
I imagine meeting Jesus face to face and him welcoming me, clapping enthusiastically and saying to me:
“Ha ha ha, wasn’t that just magnificent? It got a little dodgy in the middle part, but then that finale… Wow!”
Wouldn’t that be awesome??!!! I think we’d have a good laugh together, Jesus and I.
So yeah, the outside of the field is where we definitely need to be. Where the good stuff happens. Where the points are made. Rest assured, though, that God is most certainly in all of our middle stuff, all up in our layers with us, cheering us on, bandaging us up when we fall and wanting so desperately for us to take possession of the ball and guide us toward the goal.
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17