I was thinking today that I really prefer the middle. In so many things, actually. Pondering this however, didn't seem relevant to crafting the Spring installment of the Pulse newsletter. My mind kept skipping, stuck in the groove like a needle on a record (vinyl's back, so you know what I'm talking about!). Rather than resist the flow, I gave up and went with it - so come along for a walk down the middle; I'm trusting the Holy Spirit will make sense of it somehow!
Spring time is a "middle" season. She treads gracefully between Winter and Summer, clad in soft green shoes and a multi-floral dress. Mind you, her hair is still wet from the melting ice of Old Man Winter clinging to it, and she knows she'll soon wilt inside the warm embrace of Lazy Hazy Summer, but she's glorious while she lasts. There are so many middles to like. I like the middle of a sheet cake, it's the most tender, moist, and thick. I like the middle of a good book when you're fully engaged in the characters and the story, but not so close to the end that you're dreading saying goodbye. I like the middle of a conversation with a close friend, you've dealt with the greetings and refreshments and haven't come to the point where it's time to go.
I recognize that for all it has going for it, there is a duality of "middle-ness" that can make it an uncomfortable place to be. Chafing between future and past, forward and backward, certainty and uncertainty. It challenges us on many levels, and requires the acceptance of tension, and at times tolerance for discomfort. In connecting with our Vineyard family, this theme seems to describe what many are feeling. There has been a protracted season of shifting and changing within individual communities, and some foundation rocking hits as well. An anxious weariness can settle in and make us feel stuck. Navigation during these times takes tremendous wisdom and patience.
I was reminded of the imagery of portage from our National gathering this past July 2018 in Montreal, Quebec. The idea that our Vineyard family was in a season of hoisting our canoes over our heads, and making the long trek over changing terrain, all the while trying to keep our balance and see far enough ahead to prevent toppling over. I imagine it's heavy, tiring, sweaty work. But there came, with the imagery, a promise of a lake to put those canoes onto.
Portage was always the means to an end, the hard middle to get where they needed to go.
The implication is that portage is done with the explicit knowledge that there will be a body of water to arrive at. The invitation is to peek out from beneath our canoes and glimpse that water in the distance.
The sense across the country is that the water is near. Hope is rising, and the tough part of walking in the prophetic space, is understanding Gods timing. I have felt the promise of hope, since Spring of 2018, and wrote about it in that newsletter. Then, well, you know.... stuff happened. And hope was deferred in the face of immediate crises. Each of you will have your own to reference. Despite that, I still trust that what He said is true. I believe that the Lord is depositing some rich understanding in us through this long season.
His desire is for us to grow up in maturity before we grow out in our reach and influence, so we'll have the capacity to carry what He gives us to shepherd and share.
Gleaning the "pulse" across the nation, it seems that God has a few sticking points that He wants us to drill down into. The call to honest, raw, vulnerable connection is high on that list.
Without vulnerability, particularly within leadership, we run the risk of skimming the surface and getting caught in that inevitable eddy of prideful sludge again. Remember the spirit of Fear? It is the nemesis of vulnerability and honesty. And pride is its BFF.
It's also the roadblock to connection. We must oppose that spirit in every interaction, personal or corporate if we are to reach an honest space to rest in. The antidote is adopting healthy rhythms in our ministry and personal lives, as well as focusing on community as a bedrock of support. Relationship must be a core value and a bearing wall in all that we build. That might mean ditching agendas at an elders meeting, or board meeting, or leaders meeting (insert your own title), because someone has an immediate need and they would go home that night in pain...again. Vulnerability and honesty are kryptonite in the face of shame. We are called to be ministers of Christ's love and forgiveness. Let's start with our own backyard.
I've wondered if this has contributed to why we might feel stuck in the middle at times, as a movement. I believe it has been God's mercy to us that He hasn't allowed us to move past a certain point. Maybe we've perceived being stuck or high centered on certain issues because they've become a scapegoat or distraction away from the wrestle to stay in the middle and make no declarations of polarity, but to hold on to what we have already said.
The tension in this space is to admit that we don't have all of the answers, yet we are trusting that Jesus will lead us wisely and gently in His perfect wisdom when we seek first, His kingdom.
There is a wonderful couple of words to describe where I believe the Lord has us. It's called Liminal Space:
The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the 'what was' and the 'next.' It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.liminalspace.org
Author and theologian Richard Rohr described this space as:
where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That's a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible.... This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don't encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God's waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.
He goes on to say:
When we become aware of our own liminality, most of us, if we're honest, don't know who to become or how to navigate the transition. We often miss the real potential of 'in-between' places – we either stand paralyzed or we flee the terrible cloud of the unknown.
He concludes that we must approach our liminal spaces intentionally and within community, rather than staying paralyzed, running away or going it alone.
To do this requires trust, and in the face of deferred hope, trust can be hard to find, but I hear the Father calling us to release and trust Him again. Recently, a dear friend experienced this personally. She shared about her dismay at encountering silence when she would wait on the Lord by herself, yet she could hear Him and find resonance with others in a communal setting. It made her depressed and anxious, and wondering what she'd done to make Him stop talking to her. It was when she shared this with a few others, took the step to be vulnerable and honest, that the fear broke, and she was able to receive encouragement and release. I believe she encountered that liminal space and was understandably rattled by it. I believe that she, like us, is at the threshold of an appointment with the Divine Doctor. In between 'what was' and 'next.' She's in the middle...a dynamic place to be.
Continue to seek Him earnestly, hold onto each other intentionally, and put your trust in the One who never fails.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)