Middles and Ends
As a young girl, I was a Nancy Drew super-fan. I read and re-read all 56 volumes in the series, most of them in two days flat. Even today, I get a little bit excited when I see them on a bookshelf. Last week my family and I were in Maine for the 4th of July holiday. We stayed at an old inn and in the sitting room, there were shelves lined with antique books. Among them, were a few vintage copies of Nancy Drew books from the fifties and I felt a little flutter of delight when I spotted them. I secretly wondered if anyone would notice if I read just one for old times sake, but I refrained.
Reading these mysteries late into the night as a child, there were many times when I would become scared. Every noise in the house made me jump and it was difficult to find the courage to walk down the hall to the bathroom by myself. Eventually, I formed a strategy for those moments in which I was unable to take the suspense. When the fear became overwhelming, I would turn to the back of the book and read the last couple of pages. If you are a book lover, you might be horrified by this confession, but I just needed to know that everything was going to be okay. Knowing the end, gave me courage for the middle.
As an adult, I often crave this same assurance in my own life. What if I pour in all the effort and I fail in the end? What if I take a chance on hope, only to be heartbroken? What if I dream and the reality of my life looks nothing like the dream? I still find myself wishing I could borrow courage from the end result.
I was recently reading Joshua chapters 3 and 4 and noticed a different theme than I had when I read it previously. In this passage, we find the Israelites crossing the Jordan. God gives His people very specific instructions about what this should look like. One of His instructions is that they walk into the water and after they have waded in, the seas will be parted.
What strikes me about these instructions is that the Israelites had to walk into the water first before there was any evidence that the seas would part. They had to put their faith in God’s promises BEFORE there was proof that His Word would come to be.
It is difficult to be obedient to God’s call before we know the outcome. It can be hard to find courage in the middle when we haven’t yet read the end. I am in a season where it’s easy for the feelings to feel stronger than the faith. Walking forward with what I know to be true in spite of how I feel is terrifying…until I remember that I already know the ending.
As Christians, we sit in the privileged seat of knowing how it’s all going to turn out, knowing it is going to be okay. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that what is dark today will not be dark forever. We can have confidence that while life may not feel happy, we can have joy. We can celebrate that while life may not feel calm, we can have peace. We can be obedient with confidence that God can use any earthly outcome. We can take that next step, knowing that our value has already been established and will not change with what happens next. We know the end. And this ending is the courage for all life’s middles.