“It’s easier if you walk along the edge,” my husband said.
We were taking on unfamiliar terrain. I knew how to hike the packed dirt trails in the midwest and the mountains. But in Utah’s high desert where my KEENS tossed up a spray of sand with every step? Not so much. My gait was off. My rhythm was off. It wasn’t just unfamiliar. It was tough.
I’d already figured out the footing was friendlier along the edge. While I appreciated my husband’s kindly-meant counsel to walk there, it just didn’t work as well for me as it did for him. Let’s just say he’s steadier on his feet than am I. The edge offered just a few inches of solid ground and I’m not the balance beam sort. I’d been switching back and forth, trying to decide where walk—the middle that took so much effort or edge that was solid but skinny.
Mostly, I walked in the middle. And it was messy.
Maybe you’re in the messy middle of something today. Maybe you’re in the midst of decision or a season. Maybe the path through your once-familiar life is shifting beneath your feet and you feel a little uncertain about the next step. It’s tough.
When my oldest graduated from high school and headed off to make his way in the world, I didn’t think beyond how much we would all miss him. As my middle child moved closer to doing the same, I realized I would soon have only one student in our home school and, in fewer years than I was comfortable with, she would head off to make her way in the world, too. I was facing not only an empty nest, but what I jokingly referred to as forced retirement.
I knew I was heading toward a major life transition. What I missed was that I was already deep into one: middle age. I’d long passed the life stages with well-defined boundaries. Infancy, childhood, and the teen years have obvious beginnings and endings. Not so for the stages beyond. Consider this marvelously unhelpful definition of middle age from collinsdictionary.com: “when you are no longer young but have not yet become old.”
No wonder I missed it.
Maybe you’re walking through something similar—an ending that is also a beginning attached to a long, uncomfortable middle. That’s the thing abut making our way through the landscape of life. It’s not a straight stretch of highway with tidy stop signs for our beginnings and endings. No. We’re continually beginning and ending and middling, often all at once. And, like the sandy path in Utah’s high desert, it can be tough terrain.
What We Need for Tough Terrain
Navigating our beginnings, endings, and, especially, our messy middles requires spiritual stamina—faith muscle. When it comes to building spiritual stamina, there’s good news: We strengthen spiritual muscle by using spiritual muscle. Every time. And it’s never too late to start. Our messy middles are fitness centers for building spiritual muscle. To stand against the lion that prowls against us requires resistance training.
And like going to the gym, our results depend on whether or not we show up.
Will we take those thoughts captive or let them run rampant? Set our mind or let it set us? Follow the lamp at our feet or the fear in our heart? At these moments of decision, we can use our spiritual muscle. Or not. When we do, we build spiritual stamina. We can strengthen it. Every single time. Every step we take in faith strengthens us for the next.
What About Your Terrain?
Think about the landscape of your life: Are you walking through some tough terrain, maybe a messy middle, that simultaneously requires spiritual stamina and offers opportunities to strengthen it? Let me know. I’d love to hear.
Happy trails ~ Natalie