The arc of all good stories starts with problem, rises with increasing anticipation to a summit of suspense and — as if in a great exhale — resolves with the deep satisfaction of denouement.
Great testimonies of faith follow that pattern. Launched at podiums, told over the monthly women’s prayer gathering, we often share the kinds of testimonies where we can look back and sigh with deep satisfaction at God’s faithfulness.
Those are my favorite kind…listening to stories when it has all turned out — when we’ve come through the worry and the fear and what if’s and can show that the promises of God held. Even in the hard ending or deep loss or great pain, I want to see how God was faithful.
But faith isn’t a conclusion we tack on to the end of our stories. It’s lived out in the nitty gritty, unexpected middles of the narrative.
That’s where I find myself.
Faith for the First Step
Several years ago, in a great inhale of faith, we stepped out to follow God’s crazy call. With deep humility and obedience, we allowed God to determine whether we would have more children. This too would be His.
Even then we had several initial roadblocks:
First, my OB ruled out a reversal – it’s been too long, too much was cut, you’re too old was his response when I asked. (30s is not old y’all!) I grieved the permanency, grieved that I’d never even asked God’s input. Just like that, it looked like a closed chapter.
Then, a few months later, through a series of God-ordained events, I learned this was a thing. There were doctors who specialized in reversals. We researched and chose carefully because there’s essentially one shot at this kind of microsurgery.
Finally, because this was elective surgery, it was all out-of-pocket and Dan said we’d need to wait for his bonus. But he did get enough bonus and we scheduled the surgery.
Over the next few years, we welcomed two more children — Matthew and Annalise. Even their names mean “gift of God.”
We were elated. We embraced God’s new plan for us. We discovered our love wasn’t being divided but multiplied. We saw God provide for us. Even in some of the hard adjustments, the difficult pockets, we could see God’s goodness all over this step of faith.
Life became a happy, happy blur of babies, toddlers, growing kids, schooling, co-op days, sports practices and music lessons, dinners around the big table, filling a pew at church.
Only later did I realize that somewhere tucked deep — unspoken yet underlying every vision of my future — was an expectation of God: surely God who asked us to take such a step of faith, who then gave us these children, would bring us the length of days needed to raise them.
This is not the middle I expected. Where my youngest says she can’t remember what her dad sounds like and I’m retelling stories to create memories.
Some of the most faithful walked unexpected middles with God.
- Look at Joseph, who was given not one but two clear dreams about the future that God had for him and was then sold as a slave to Bedouin merchants, wrongfully accused and languished in prison. What kind of middle is that?
- There’s Mary — carrying the very son of God and yet uprooted from home, delivering in a Bethlehem stable and compelled to flee to Egypt with her husband and newborn to escape the murderous Herod. Perhaps not the kind of middle she expected after her obedience.
- And then Abraham, who stepped out in great faith leaving family and home and country; whom God promised an heir — a son from his own body – and yet he waited 25 years to see God fulfill that promise. Wading through the middle year after year after year, waiting on God.
I knew I’d need huge faith to launch out in that initial step of faith. But I never considered I’d need faith to continue in an unexpected middle.
While I weep at so much in our middle, I have never once doubted God’s certain whisper to us. And there are a hundred mercies: big kids who step in to coach a younger’s ball team; littles whose playfulness keeps days bright; an older brother with flowers at the recital; youngers snuggled on laps or hoisted onto broad shoulders.
Maybe you’re in your own unexpected middle.
In the midst of knotted circumstances.
In the midst of paths that seem to have veered off completely.
In the midst of the wait and the wondering how this will all end.
Let’s proclaim God’s goodness now, long before it’s all tied up with a neat bow. Let’s in faith believe right here — in the nitty, gritty of our unexpected middles. Let’s be fully persuaded that God is able and is now leading us precisely through the middle He’s always had for us.
That’s the kind of middle I want. We will not shrink back.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…yet he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:18-21
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