If you've ever been on a long trip with small children you've no doubt heard, "Are we there yet?" Maybe you've even said those exact words or felt that same way as you have journeyed with God. Midway is where these feelings of frustration and impatience are most commonly felt. It's also where our hidden doubts find their voice.
Where most beginnings start with energy and expectation for all that is ahead, and endings bring the joy of completion as you arrive at your desired destination, the middle is very different. This midpoint can too quickly become a low point, as energy is lacking and enthusiasm wanes. Yet how well you handle the middle reveals what is in the middle of you.
The disciples found—in the middle of a lake—a revelation of Jesus that they had never seen on the shore. In the middle is where new navigational skills are found. It's also where some of the most significant lessons are learned.
Join Charlotte Gambill in this compelling, story-driven message that shows through biblical teaching and life application how those who persist through the middle will find that miracles await them on the other side.
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|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
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The Miracle in the Middle
Finding God's Voice in the Void
By CHARLOTTE GAMBILL
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Charlotte Gambill
All rights reserved.
ARE WE THERE YET?
"ARE WE THERE YET?!" IT WAS AN OVERLY DRAMATIC, AGITATED cry from the backseat of our rental vehicle as two bored and tired children decided they had had enough of being strapped like prisoners into their child seats. Earlier that day, assuming we were adequately prepared for the long day ahead, Steve and I had set off on a six-hour road trip to our vacation destination. We had packed snacks and games, and planned the bathroom stops—all to help make the journey successful and less stressful. Yet even with the world's best planning there are eventualities you don't plan for—scenarios that can range anywhere from exploding drink cartons to unexpected backseat wrestling matches.
We were no exception. What we thought would be a family bonding experience was fast becoming a scene from a disaster movie. What had previously pacified our little passengers now had little to no effect on them. They no longer cared to look at the pretty scenery passing by and did not want to play I Spy from the elevated vantage point their car seats provided them. And while my husband's out-of-tune and ambitious rendition of every Disney song in his limited repertoire wore thin, and one by one the backup supplies packed to ensure road-trip sanity fell short, we also ran out of the snacks that had previously bought us precious moments of silence. But the kiss of death was when the electronic devices we had put so much faith in to occupy our captive audience were each drained of their power. At that point, I knew exactly how they felt. Drained, and with my fuses about to blow, we started to look for some kind of sign from the freeway. We needed the golden arches, or even a Cracker Barrel, to save us as our desperate passengers' rhythmic chant of "Are we there yet?" intensified. Why had we ever thought a road trip with two small—but very mighty—children was a good formula for a relaxing family vacation? We had no clue.
THE INNER CHILD
In the same way, every one of us travels through life with an inner child in the backseat—an impatient passenger that dwells within us as we travel our paths, pursuing the destinations we believe we've been called to discover. That inner child is all too often distracted by the seeming snail's pace of our personal progress, or becomes bored by the monotonous scenery en route. We are frustrated by the testing terrain before us and often feel ill equipped to face the demands the journey may require. And though we may start out with high expectations, excited by the undiscovered potential that awaits us, we get stuck attempting to navigate problems more often than we find ourselves attaining promises. We end up exerting a lot of energy on unforeseen obstacles rather than enjoying the new horizons we'd hoped for. Maybe on your journey your business is failing more than flourishing, or the relationship that held such potential has run into trouble. Maybe the road has become uncomfortable and caused you to feel isolated and alone. You may feel as if you have entered some kind of void—a place where your spiritual GPS seems to have become disconnected, and you find yourself looking for any encouragement you can find to stick with your planned destination.
If you are currently spending more time searching for an exit ramp than enjoying the journey, this book is for you. I want to reengage the disengaged, encourage the discouraged, cheer on the fainthearted—those no longer convinced the dream is worth the commitment it demands. We have all been there, and it may even be that is where you find yourself right now. If so, can I reassure you that you are not alone? In fact, there are usually more of us in this muddled middle than those who have reached their dream destinations. This is why I am dedicating this book to you, my fellow traveler, because I want to strengthen your weary spirit and breathe hope into your soul. The dysfunction you are facing does not have to derail you and the future you still want to believe in is not out of reach, so do not stop reading now.
That day in the backseat of our car, our two children expressed their discontent loud and clear. You, however, may not be the type of person who gives such an audible voice to your frustration, yet your internal struggle is no less real. Though your Are we there yet? questioning of God may be silent to those around you, it rarely stops resonating inside you. It can become a repetitive echo in your soul. It can be evidenced by the change in your demeanor, as your enthusiasm for the journey lessens. Now your ebbing faith causes your once confident stride to be replaced by faltering footsteps. At this point, your own barrage of questions begins toward our Heavenly Father, as you seek assurance that this journey has an end destination in sight. It is often in this void that we think we need to hear God's voice the most, and yet it can seem that it is here that He speaks the least. Just as when we, as parents, choose to not always respond to our children's demands to stop the vehicle or pacify their boredom, God doesn't always answer us immediately.
If we leave this internal turmoil unaddressed, it can quickly intensify from a quiet complaint to a temper tantrum with God. At this point, without intervention, the impatient traveler is tempted to take matters into his or her own hands, often with disastrous results. We attempt to force what God hasn't endorsed or prematurely leave the route He has planned for us, thinking we will find a shortcut to a breakthrough by ourselves. (By the way, I have tried the shortcut and my advice is to not take it!)
I know what it is to lose your stride in certain seasons of life, when the road simply seems too long to endure. I have felt the frustration of the prolonged promise waiting to be fulfilled, and I have asked God many times Are we there yet? only to find no satisfactory answer to help me decide whether I should persevere or give in. The fact is we are all on a journey from where we are now to where we want to be. And in our eagerness to get there, we must remember that God never promised it would be easy. We weren't given a fast pass to jump the part of the process we like the least. The journey of any dream, plan, and destiny will be filled with many highs and lows; it will take you from mountaintop to valley. The scenery may go from breathtaking to boring, but when we trust God with the process, every stage can be useful and instructive.
On my own journey I have met many people who are at the crossroads between their dreams and their current realities. They are confused travelers, disoriented by the season they are in. I have seen weary pastors ready to walk away from their callings, tired of the testing and disillusioned by their progress. I have listened to business leaders share how their frustrations were causing them to derail plans for the future. I have seen others quit projects and downscale their expectations because the journey had brought such disappointment that it corroded confidence and deflated dreams. At these crossroads we have to contend with that inner child in the backseat, who is more inclined to quit than to persevere.
Every journey typically goes through three stages. For the purposes of this book, I will call them the beginning, the middle, and the end. The beginning and the end act as the two great bookends to the section we're referring to as the middle. This middle stage can be short or long, but I have found it is usually longer than we want it to be. Though it has moments when it is exhilarating, it is usually exhausting. The middle is also not very glamorous and, therefore, not something we choose to dwell on.
The middle is the Are we there yet? part of our journey, and I believe, one of the most underestimated stages of our growth. Throughout our time together I want to elevate the middle stage and to ask you to reconsider the power in this place that you may even be resenting. I truly believe that in the middle is where you really find out what is in the middle of you.
But first let's consider the role of these bookends called the beginning and the end. Every new beginning comes with its own range of emotions propelling you forward with an energetic enthusiasm into new adventures—whether it is the realizing of a formative idea or seizing a fresh start relationally or vocationally. The beginning whispers endless possibilities, unknown adventures, and exciting opportunities. Our conversations at the start are typically filled with great expectancy, as we surround ourselves with faith-building company to help build our dreams and incubate their futures.
The beginning is about commitment and affirmation; it's the place we declare intent and pledge to the journey on which we are about to embark. It is heard in the vows spoken at the start of a marriage, as two become one. It can be witnessed in the planning and activity of newly expectant parents. It is written in the contract that provides the starting point for a business venture. Whether it is a new baby, relationship, church, or business, the beginning offers everyone the momentum that is uniquely found in a new start—the blank piece of paper that invites you to fill it with your creativity.
Beginnings give us the grace to say good-bye to the past and close previous chapters. They invite newly awakened curiosity to come and explore what lies ahead. Like a shot of adrenaline, they help activate and stimulate our faith. A strong start can even push dormant doubts into the background of our lives, which is often where they stay until our journey is well under way. Beginnings are where our hearts shout Let's go! as they wake up our potential and seize the awaiting opportunity.
As a mother, every September as my children prepare to go back to school, I am reminded of the joy and expectancy found in beginnings. The night before their school year begins they lay out their crisp uniforms with new school shoes and set their coats out at the front door. And even though they may be staying within the same school, they go to bed early with a nervous excitement as to what the morning will bring. The opportunity to begin again with a new teacher and class brings a fresh energy into their journeys. That next morning we take pictures of them leaving for the first day, and then we wait for them after school to hear all the news of how the day went.
Beginnings bring with them all these moments and more, which is why we must never underestimate the gift they give us and instead maximize every opportunity they afford us. Because in our home, it is not long before the same school uniform, which was previously ironed and hung carefully in the closet, is now thrown carelessly on the bedroom floor. And the new shoes are well-worn from the lunchtime soccer games they have been subjected to. The excitement for the new teacher is also wearing thin. Yes, it is true that beginnings don't last long, but for a moment in time they serve to propel us forward with high hopes and expectations. This gift of hope is what we as travelers must learn to harness, because it serves as something to hold onto when we reach the more challenging middle moments.
TURN IT UP
God turns up the volume at the start of a new journey, which is why it can be so exciting. It is here we can hear His voice loud and clear. We receive words of affirmation about the direction He is calling us and feel a sense of confirmation and witness from those around us. With the volume turned up, God's Word stirs up our faith, silencing the reasons why we shouldn't or couldn't do what we are intending to do. What God gives us in the beginning is soul food to sustain us later. Therefore beginnings are the times when we must remember to press Record: Record the voice of God, the words of encouragement, and the signs that got you heading down this road. Record the instructions that mobilized you, because there may come a point in the middle where you will need to replay those directions to help you move again. There will be times when you use the words you recorded, which hold with them your purpose, to soothe the pain you may have to endure in the process.
Have you ever been driving in your car, listening to the radio, and just as you are singing along to your favorite song the station you'd selected loses its signal? Instead static, that awful white noise, comes blaring through your car's speakers. Suddenly you go from happily singing along to the track being barely recognizable. Usually it's because you've come into an area with poor reception. And depending on how patient you are, you will choose one of several options—you will either keep driving, waiting for the radio signal to improve, or you will start twiddling with the dials to try to find a different station, settling for having to listen to a different song. Or maybe you will switch the radio off altogether. Now you can't choose your preferred station, because the static is restricting your choices. The middle is where static happens and where our once-clear commitments are now compromised by circumstances that try to confuse and drown out the choices we had made.
Remember the garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve walked and talked with God daily? The signal between them and their Creator was loud and clear. Yet Satan came in the form of a serpent with one goal: create just enough static that Adam and Eve would sin, and in doing so, place a permanent defect in mankind's reception with God. Ever since then, the enemy has been intent on placing static into every spirit, because he wants you to lose the God signal for your life. If he can cause you to have poor reception through sin, doubts, compromise, or even weariness, he can derail you from your destiny. Adam and Eve knew what God had said about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, yet all it took was the static of a serpent's questioning to turn down the volume on God's plan and cause them to choose their own.
The enemy is the author of confusion. He is the source of the static and will wait for an opportune time to insert his interference—which is most often in the middle. After they ate of the fruit that day, Adam and Eve heard God's voice. Only when they heard Him this time, they hid and didn't dare to respond. The static had caused a separation that would go on to affect all of our destinations.
The enemy does not have any new tactics! They are still the same today. That is why in the middle we need to learn to stay tuned to the station where we last heard God speak to us. We need to leave the dial alone and reposition ourselves into a place of obedience that will allow us to regain reception. When I lose the signal in my car, I continue singing along to the song, even over the interference, and then wait to see if I have kept time with the original track when the signal becomes clear again. Often, I'm only a few words behind or ahead, but the point is I stuck to the song. How about if in our middles we do the same? We sing over the static; we keep speaking out what we know God spoke into our spirits. As we do, we will at some point be able to reconnect. I pray you will remember the song God gave you to sing, the instructions He told you to follow, and the things He has called you to do. As you read, I pray interference will be removed and the song of your future will be amplified.
The other bookend is much like beginnings in that it has its own energy. Endings offer us a place to stop and take it all in. They are where we can finally take our feet off the accelerators, relax our postures, and park for a while. Endings also bring satisfaction and a sense of achievement; they are the moments we capture in time that exclaim, "You did it! You made it happen!" They are where we realize that all of the work was not wasted and where we find a sense of reward for the roads we have traveled.
Happily ever after. This is the phrase every child and well-practiced storyteller knows is synonymous with great endings. So when we read fairy tales aloud to a captivated audience, even though the villains may seem to be gaining ground or harm looms over their favorite characters, the young listeners are comforted by the notion of what is to come. They draw hope from the way other fairy tales have ended and remind themselves that this is not the end. They persevere until closure arrives and sigh with great relief as all the loose ends are tied up and order is restored with those famous words, "... and they lived happily ever after." In reality, this is not always the closing statement at the end of our journeys. But for the most part, endings do bring a sense of satisfaction and a unique joy. They mark the arrival at a destination that has often been greatly anticipated.
Consider the ending for the pregnant woman; it is a moment that brings such a sense of relief and joy as she holds the long-awaited baby in her arms. She has finally come to the end of a journey that started with such excitement but quickly moved to exhaustion, from sleepless nights, a stretching waistline, cravings, and labor pains. Now at the end of the nine months, her energy seems to return as the moment she has dreamed of becomes reality. The moment where she sees and holds what she has carried for so long makes it all worthwhile.
Excerpted from The Miracle in the Middle by CHARLOTTE GAMBILL. Copyright © 2015 Charlotte Gambill. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER ONE · ARE WE THERE YET?, 1,
CHAPTER TWO · FOLLOW ME, 21,
CHAPTER THREE · KEEP YOUR SHOES ON, 39,
CHAPTER FOUR · STRAINING AT THE OARS, 57,
CHAPTER FIVE · THREE THINGS, 73,
CHAPTER SIX · DROP ANCHOR, 91,
CHAPTER SEVEN · PIGGY IN THE MIDDLE, 109,
CHAPTER EIGHT · RESPONSE TIME, 127,
CHAPTER NINE · COMMUNAL CHANGE, 147,
CHAPTER TEN · AFTER THE GIANT, 167,
CHAPTER ELEVEN · MIRACLE IN THE MIDDLE, 187,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, 207,