Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Do you remember bursting from the house on hot, sunny summer days, bounding down the front porch steps, landing smack dab in the middle of a group of neighborhood friends? Do you remember dingy gym shoes and ashy legs positioned in a circle, and one bossy somebody bending down low with pointy finger poking each person’s toes in “eeny, meeny, miney, moe”? Do you remember the easy smiles at the one who was “It,” closing his eyes at the designated tree and counting from ten? Do you remember the shriek of screams that came as soon as “It” turned around with “Ready or not, here I come!” predatorily intent to catch somebody, anybody too slow to evade his tag?

Mamas, who didn’t understand that the street was the only place to run to get away from “It,” were dangling and screaming over railings, trying to ruin the game with threats of butt-whippings and groundings if you got hit by a car. “Yes, Ma’ams” rang out half-heartedly as you tried to dodge traffic and “It,” getting back to sidewalks and yards that didn’t belong to Mrs. Harris, because she was always complaining about her grass being trampled under growing feet.

It was good fun until you realized that “It” had you in his crosshairs. Like an NFL running back, you had a quick choice to make because “It” was closing in on you and you alone. Now “It” was smiling, and you, with furrowed brow, were calculating: your top speed, agility, and proximity to “home” vs. his. Before you were fully prepared, your body decided to fake left, shift right, then double back hard to the left. Your legs flew faster than your brain and lungs thought they could, and with the tree getting closer, you thrust your arms out, hoping they would, like a magnet, generate enough pull to drag that tree to your fingertips before “It” could tag your back.

Friend, do you ever feel like adult life is just a more serious, more consequential version of tag? Am I the only one who feels like I’m in a perpetual state of maneuvering around meticulous lawns, venturing into thorny bushes, and hopping over skateboards and bicycles? Why is “It” always hunting me? Where is that ice cream truck so we can call “time out”? Did everybody else go home for dinner? Did I miss that the streetlights came on?

Goodness, this was a tough week! Somehow I missed that Tyrese and Vin Diesel had commissioned me because life was coming oh so fast and furious! I have literally forgotten to eat and drink water, and my nights have been largely restless. But thank God, I remembered how to get “home!”

Like a game of tag, as Christians, we have a “home.” In Christ, we have refuge where we are safe from all that is in dangerous pursuit of our souls. In Him, we find safety and renewal so that we can get back out there and do what He expects His children to do.

Friend, there are three things to remember if you are in a game of “tag” you never wanted or feel like won’t end:

  1. You may be perfectly aligned with the will of God. Matthew 8: 23 says, “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.” He told us to follow Him (Matthew 16: 24), Friend, and sometimes we follow Him into a storm designed to perfect our faith, teach us not to fear, and trust Him more.
  2. Jesus is our “home.” The opening of Psalms 46 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Friend, notice the modifiers the psalmists use here. God doesn’t just provide support or aid, but he does so presently. He is here now in the midst of the trouble. Not only that, but His presence is very present. More than and more potent than any other presence is God’s. So we can, like the sons of Korah, exclaim, “Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Psalms 46: 2-3, NKJV). No matter how rough, fast, horrifying, or scary “It” is, Friend, there is no fear when we know Christ. When we are in Him, we are “like a tree planted by the rivers of water…whose leaf shall not wither” (Psalms 1: 3).
  3. You ought to have joy because you are gaining more than you think. Our flesh and the culture of the world tell us that it is useless following after Christ. We are constantly bombarded with messages and images that attempt to decry the righteousness of God and extol the values of the world. Paul tells the Church at Philippi, and all Christians by extension, that “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1: 21). When we live for and like Christ, we will be persecuted and suffer because of our opposition to the world and sin. This puts a target on us, but we should feel like those early Christians who were beaten but left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5: 40-41).

Friend, the world is not getting the best of you just because life is hard! In fact, it should be getting harder the more you stand for Christ. The harder it gets, the more you see your own fallibility and need to lean even harder on the Lord. When you are truly driven by the love of God and His word, you will begin to be like Paul: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Know that “It” will continue to stalk and pursue you because you are a threat to his power in the world. Through Christ, who has overcome the world, we can, too. Stay strong, Friend! “It” will be all over soon!

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