If you’ve been reading my writing long, this phrase might be familiar to you by now: the hard work of the middle.
It comes from one of my favorite books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, in which Donald Miller suggests (to over simplify it) that our lives are like a story.
And, more importantly, whether this story I live is a good one is entirely up to me and the choices I make.
As for the hard work of the middle, you can find the larger passage HERE, but, in short, Miller says this:
The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.
I was reminded of this concept again this week during a moment in which Jake and I were paddling especially hard but feeling like our boat wasn’t moving any closer to the shore.
We’re in the thick of the hard work, and we exchange at least one high-five a day because we’re so proud of ourselves for not giving up.
(Also, we just really like high-fives. Big whoop.)
Parenting, I’m realizing, comes with an overwhelming sense of pressure. Because, not only are we trying to write and live the best stories we can for ourselves through the murky waters of the middle, we’re also charged with penning the opening chapters of our kids’ lives.
Eventually they will take the pen into their own hands, but for now, it’s almost entirely up to us.
The words we speak to them. The attention we offer them. The expectations we set for them.
These are the days which set the course for all the ones to follow.
They won’t remember these years with the detail I know Jake and I will, but the importance of the foundation we set for them now is not lost on me.
Parenting toddlers can be defeating. So many nights I’m left dwelling on the things I shouldn’t have said, the ways I mismanaged situations, or the issues I haven’t yet been able to solve.
And, while I believe Jake and I are doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting gig (high-ten for good measure), I also know that we do fail on a daily basis.
Oh the things I already wish I could erase from their books.
But there’s hope. There’s always hope when you look in the right places, and I’m reminded today of these words from Psalm 73:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Thankfully, my kids don’t have to rely on my strength alone when it comes to these early chapters.
They will certainly see our flaws and failures as we walk through our respective narratives, but I can only hope that through those moments, they also see the promised strength of God and His renewed mercies each day.
And that’s worth an infinite number of high-fives, if you ask me.