Living in the Middle

I spotted a kindred spirit in Thomas Jefferson after reading that he once sent ten wagon loads of his beloved books from his home in Monticello to the newly established Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Though I’ve never counted my books by the wagon-load, I would certainly say that books have played a major role in my life. I’ve marked my life by them. I associate certain events in my life with the books I was reading at the time… Sense and Sensibility after the birth of my first baby (I read it out loud to him… I’m sure he appreciated it.)… Anne of Green Gables after the birth of Colette (A natural choice!). I even associate certain months with books… Jane Eyre is to be read in February, Screwtape Letters in October, Little Women in November.

The Middle Chapters

Ask any bookworm, they probably have some rhythm, some method to their insatiable dance with their darling books. I’ve learned and grown through reading, but today I want to share one thing I’ve learned from reading that I believe everyone should know. It is that no book should be abandoned half way through because of the sorrow that occurs in the “middle chapters.” No book should be tossed aside because of the tragedies that loom large in the pages between chapter one and the final chapter. No matter how your heart is aching, no matter how drenched the pages are with your tears, you simply must keep reading. The good parts always come in the end. The sorrow that fills the middle pages are always the step stones to a happily ever after.

Now, there are those random horrid books that are the exception (Thomas Hardy, I’m talking about you!! Something was clearly wrong with that man… poor, poor Tess), but the classics, the beautiful timeless classics, are marked by scene setting, tragedy then a glorious “every-puzzle-piece-in-its-place” happily ever after. That said, it must be acknowledged that most stories half-way through are pretty grim. One quick peek at Edmund in the clutches of the White Witch and Narnia trapped in eternal winter should settle all arguments. The middle chapters are ugly.

Biblical Stories Are No Exception.

One of my favorites–the story of Ruth–is a perfect illustration. We are introduced to Ruth in the bleak, washed-out “middle chapters” of her story. Married into a foreign family, Ruth is cast into ruin when her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law die. All she has left is poverty and a fairly hopeless mother-in-law who has requested a name change to “Bitterness.” Not over-appealing prospects if you ask me. But a well-versed reader recognizes the darkness as merely the “middle chapters” of Ruth’s story. Though there is pain, an experienced reader isn’t wallowing in what is–she has her eyes scanning ahead at what is to be. She is busy, eagerly devouring the next chapter. She is on the lookout for beauty… and she is full of hope. And as it happens in so many stories, the reader is not disappointed.

Ruth travels with her mother-in-law back to Israel. She accepts and embraces the task before her and begins gleaning in a farmer’s field for survival. In the midst of her labor, a sovereign God sends a miracle. In comes Boaz, a true knight and shining armor long before such a thing existed. He is a wealthy, good-hearted SINGLE landlord. A mere two chapters later we have a wedding, a home and a tiny baby boy.

Are You Living in the Middle?

God is no withholder of happily ever afters. Every story He writes for one of His children, He ends with beauty. If you are His child your story is no exception. You may be living the “middle chapters” at the moment. You may feel as though you have come to a place of endless rockiness. Or you may be stuck in a chapter of loneliness or a chapter of fear. You may not remember a day when you’ve woken without a pit in your stomach. You may be living in the middle chapters of obedience without fruitfulness and you may be scanning the pages ahead and wondering, “At what point will things start to change?”

Can I simply encourage you–never give up on a book half way through. Never abandon a story–especially not your own–due to the ugliness of the middle chapters. Look above them, look beyond them–look to your God, the Greatest Author, and set your hope on the great things that are to be. For without a doubt, great things are to be. Do not lose heart. Read on. One day it will be “That Day,” the day when He makes all things new. One day, it will be your happily ever after. Read on.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18