Monday, August 5, 2013

In The Middle

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world."
1 John 2:2

Beautiful photo taken by Angela Gellenbeck in her flower garden.

Have you ever been "in the middle" of two people?
Perhaps caught in the cross-fire of an argument 
or torn between what two people expect of you?
Maybe both people are of differing opinions, 
and you were trying your utmost to keep the peace and please both sides.
I don't know about you, but when I find myself there, in that position,
I feel kind of like I am being run through a shredder.

We bought one recently...a shredder, that is.
It is one of the heavy duty ones that can accommodate several pieces of paper at a time.
As you feed the paper into the shredder, it doesn't have a chance.
By the time it comes out on the other side, it is literally ripped to shreds.
It is powerless against the strength of the electrically-driven machine.

That's kind of how it feels to be caught "in the middle".
Trying to keep your own sanity, and your own peace with God,
in the midst of the "cross-blades" is not an easy task.
Trying to come out whole...on the other side, without any permanent damage to your composition
takes a strength much stronger than human.
It takes Divine intervention on your behalf...
and sometimes, it takes admitting you aren't so strong after all.

Last night, I struggled.
I was trying to please two people, both of whom I love dearly.
One didn't even know a struggle was going on,
but the will of the other was strong and unbending.
I didn't want to hurt the oblivious one, 
and yet, I wanted very much to please the other.
What to do?

I felt completely overwhelmed.
I knew if something didn't change....or give....
I was going to need to make a very dreaded phone call,
feelings would be hurt and hopes crushed.

Not knowing where else to turn, and knowing that the ones around me were incapable of helping me,
even though they are precious and did their best to make me feel better, 
I did the thing that has worked for me for over 40 years.
I took the matter to the Lord in prayer.
I begged Him to help me.
To do what I cannot do.
I could see no satisfactory solution....
could come up with no compromise that I felt would work
to keep both people happy.
I just gave Him the whole jumbled mess, with the hopes that He would sort through it,
help me out, and give me the needed direction.

It always helps to sleep on things.
Kevin always tells me things will look better in the morning
after I've had a good night's rest.
He's right...every time.
Problems tend to be magnified when I am exhausted and weary.
I went to bed troubled, but when I woke up this morning,
even though my position in the middle of this situation is one of the first things
that came to my mind, the tug-of-war inside me wasn't quite as keen or pronounced.

As I was praying last night, 
memories flooded my mind...not pleasant ones...
of times throughout life that I have had to be in this position...
caught in the cross fire between two people I love.
Many times I have ended up battered, bruised, and defeated,
in my quest to be a peacemaker.
Haven't we all been there?

"Lord, I feel so torn", I cried.
"I hate being in the middle.
I've been here so many times."

"Child, I know how you feel.
I've been there.
I was in the middle",
His sweet voice the inmost layer of my soul.

My jaw dropped and hung open.
I saw a scene of Mt. Calvary with my precious Savior hanging on an old, rugged cross...
right smack in the middle of two other men.
They deserved to die.
They had broken the law.
They knew the punishment.
He was innocent.
He hung the middle....guiltless, sinless, undeserving of death.
He hung there and died, because He was bearing the punishment for my sins...
so I wouldn't have to.
So that I could live eternity...with Him.

Then He spoke on,
"I wasn't just in the middle of two thieves hanging on the cross.
I was in the middle....between God and man."

I stopped praying....trying to absorb what He was telling me.
What can you say to such a statement?
How can you find the words?

My situation, though very trying, paled to a ghostly white,
when compared with His the middle.

I was just trying to keep two people happy.
Trying not to hurt either side.
Trying to keep the peace....between two.

Jesus Christ was literally torn...between His righteous, holy Father
and every sin-corrupted, defiled man and woman who has ever or will ever live.

His flesh drew back from taking on such a position.
Remember His struggles in the Garden of Gethesemane?
How He had to pray three separate times?
How His will had to be put to death in order for Him to fulfill the will of His Father?

Jesus knew it would not be easy.
He was human...just like you and me.
That human part of our Lord, did not look forward to becoming guilty.
Guilt was a place Jesus had never been.
He had always done His Father's will....completely and entirely.
He had never failed God.
Never committed a sin or transgressed His law.
He had passed every test of this life.
So, to consent to absorb the guilt and shame of sin was a whole new experience for Jesus.

You and I....we're used to feeling condemnation.
We have all sinned and come short of the glory of one time or another in our lives.
We have all failed...miserably....and felt the impending darkness...
of being alienated from Almighty God.

Jesus had never felt that...ever.
Not until that night...when He was asked to step into the middle.
His entire life on earth was spent in the sweetest fellowship...with His Father.
That communion had never before been broken.
He lived life in total obedience and submission to God's plan.
He was now being asked to step into the unfamiliar....
to a place where God could not bear to look...
to a region painfully and entirely separated from His Father.

The thought must have been horrifying for Jesus.
To be placed in this awful place would require total ex-communication from His Father.
After a struggle with His flesh, He relented.
He surrendered.
He would make and be that sacrifice.

It was the hardest, most awkward, most alone position....ever.
When Jesus cried that heart-wrenching, anguished cry from the cross,
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?",
it was the blackest, most light-deprived moment in the history of mankind.

Remember how darkness came over the land from the sixth hour to the ninth?
It is my personal opinion that it was during that time that every sin ever committed...
both before and after...
was rolled onto the conscience and record of Jesus Christ...
just like He was actually and realistically responsible.
The blame was all rolled on to Him.
He absorbed the guilt, the shame, the condemnation, the liability.
Jesus became accountable for every sin,
though He never committed even one.
There was a gap between God and man that was so wide,
so far-reaching,
so humanly-impossible to span,
that it could be no other way.
Jesus' position was the height of injustice.
Never before had anyone been in that place.
Nor will they ever have to be again.
Because Jesus stepped the the the position....
of being between God and man.

Talk about being put in the middle.

The thoughts rushed over me, and I saw things in a whole new light.
Zachary came in the room where I was praying at about that time.
He knew of my dilemma, because he had heard Kevin and I discussing it earlier.
Bless his heart, he is such a blessing to us!
God gives him such insight and wisdom.
It amazes me time after time.

"How are you doing, Mama?"

"I'm okay.
Let me share with you what the Lord is telling me.
Jesus was in the middle, Zach.
Not only between the two thieves,
but also between God and man."

Understanding shone in his melted-chocolate brown eyes.
"That's right, Mama!
 He was.
And, who did He choose, Mama, when He was between God and man?
Remember, when God had to turn His head...
because He couldn't bear to look at Jesus?
Who did Jesus choose?"

"He chose us, Zach.
Jesus chose us."

Unfathomable Divine love.
Beyond anything you or I will ever comprehend or understand.

The realization that Jesus absolutely knows how I feel in this battle
washed over me like a sweet, enveloping comfort.

He walked this path.
He knows every emotion of it....deeper and on a much bigger scale than I will ever be able to relate.
Since His position was so much more intense,
you and I will never face any situation that He cannot understand.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

All points.
Everything you and I go through.
Each emotion, however all-consuming.
Each position, however uncomfortable and awkward.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has been there, my friend.
He's not only been there....
He's been there in a far greater capacity than the deepest depths of any other human suffering...
regardless of its intensity.

Jesus knows.

I have prayed much over my current situation.
It has resurrected so many unpleasant memories...of past times I was here.
So, in addition to sorting through this,
I am having to deal with the influx of trying to re-forget some things.
Have you ever had that happen?
Where things you had absolutely consecrated and given over to God
suddenly reappeared and were jolted back to life, 
because you found yourself in a similar setting that reminded you?

Things long-ago forgiven try to pop back up and cause the most aggravating of troubles.
Recollections long-since buried raise their ugly heads and do their utmost to bother again.
It takes the grace of God to let it all go.
I finally did that.
I just gave the whole horrible heap over to the Lord.

Past situations, past struggles, even involving those who have already gone on to be with the Lord,
were clouding my today.....the reality of now.
As soon as I realized it, I let go.

"Here, Lord, it's Yours.
I don't know what to do.
I don't want to re-live negative things that happened in the past.
I don't want to feel this way.
I want the forgiven, forgotten past to stay where it is.
I don't like the feelings I am experiencing.
I need peace....right in the midst of the storm.
Please show me what to do."

Today, I got a phone call....from one of the people involved.
As we talked things through, God gave me wisdom...He gave me the words...
to say what I needed to say, in a way that didn't offend.
The person on the other end understood.
It was way easier than I thought it would be.

I absolutely cannot please every person every time.
I wish I weren't so concerned with things.
I wish I could just be like Kevin...he never lets things like this affect him.
He does what he needs to do, and lets the rest roll off.
He is the most balanced, even-keeled man I've ever known.

After 25 years of happy, peaceful marriage, 
and after observing him closely and trying to learn his secrets of staying so calm,
I have concluded that women's brains are just wired differently than men's!

I don't think I will ever be like that....
even though I so long to be.

Men are much less emotional than women.
Their heads can hit the pillow at night, and they can be heard snoring in a matter of seconds. :~)
They can whistle a tune that drowns out any level of noise or chaos going on around them.
They possess the ability to let it all roll off, 
"just like water off a duck's back".
 Or as my Papaw used to put it,
"it don't amount to any more than an old dog barkin'."
They can walk off and do their own thing without the least twinge of undue stress.

I admire those qualities so much.
Just some of the main reasons I love my husband....
and wish I could be more like him.

But, the fact is, I am me.
"I is what I is", what can I say?
God made women to be the weaker vessels.

"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, 
giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, 
and as being heirs together of the grace of life; 
that your prayers be not hindered."
I Peter 3:7

Don't ever doubt the fact that men love that.
They love having their woman lean on them and draw from their strength.
We try to convince ourselves we are as strong as men,
but the Bible says, we are weaker.
I've proven its validity through the years.
When it comes to holding up to certain levels of stress and pressure,
I just don't have the intensity of Kevin's strength.
That's when I turn to him,
put my head on my favorite spot....on his left shoulder....above his heart,
and I just let him hold me and absorb the brunt of it all.

God placed our husbands there...for such times as these.
They love to feel needed.
I don't mean unnecessarily clung-to, but needed.
Nothing thrills Kevin more than for me to come to the realization that I need him.

We try to be so independent.
God knew we would need each other.
So he gave certain qualities, certain attributes, certain women...
and certain, unique characteristics to men.

Both genders are needed in the home...
to balance each other...
to fulfill each other....
to complete the picture God envisions.

Life is beautiful when lived according to God's plan.

Another beautiful photo by Angela

I'm out of the middle for now.
I'm sure this won't be the last time.

Maybe you find yourself there, too, my friend.
If so, remember this...
Jesus was there....right where you are.

He absolutely knows how you feel.

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