Stuck in the Middle

From The NetworkFebruary 2019

This year, I’ve returned to an old favorite for my morning devotional. It’s a collection of reflections by Shauna Niequist called Savor (find it here) and this week one of her writings hit at something that I feel about this time every winter.

In any journey, she writes,

“At the beginning, you have buoyancy and a little arrogance. The journey looks beautiful and bright, and you are filled with resolve and silver strength, sure that you will face it with optimism and chutzpah.

And the end is beautiful. You are wiser, better, deeper. The end is revelation, resolution, a soft place to land.

But, oh, the middle. The middle is fog, exhaustion, loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you’ll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it.

All you can ask for, in the middle, are sweet moments of reprieve in the company of people you love. For a few hours, you’ll feel protected by the goodness of friendship and life around the table, and that’s the best thing I can imagine.”

To a degree, this is how I feel most Januaries. In November and December, when the temperatures start to really drop, when snow becomes less of a dream and more of a reality with salt-scattered sidewalks and icy car windows, at least there is the comfort of harvest celebrations, of Thanksgiving pies and Christmas holly. But in January, when the snow keeps piling up, and I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel the tips of my toes, I start to grow weary. Weary of the constant winter colds, weary of snow finding its way into my boots and down my sleeves, weary of puddles from melting ice dotting the floor near my apartment doors.

In time, I know, the crocuses will sprout. The slush will turn into muddy rivers that run down the gutters, the grass will turn green again and I can start shedding the extra layers of thermal clothes. But in the middle, here, in the dark of winter after the brightness of the holidays, I think Shauna is right. All we can ask for is reprieve for a few hours from the cold and the dark. For tables to gather at with friends, for rooms which are so full of love and light that it burns off the frost around our weary hearts.

I feel that every Sunday when we gather together, and every Wednesday night when we share supper, songs and study. I feel that in the warmth of our fellowship, the laughter over coffee hour, the brightness of our sanctuary windows and the deep reverberation of the organ pipes. Something warm, and welcoming, and invigorating. Sacred.

Shauna wasn’t writing just about church in this passage, but she may as well have been. It is, after all, a place that reminds me so often about the “goodness of friendship and life around the table.” For that, and for each of you, I am so deeply grateful. Grateful, even, for this season of being “in the middle,” since it shows me how richly blessed I am.

Jen Christianson

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