Grace in the Middle
"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
She is slumped on the couch all grumpy and mad, her lips pursed in a dramatic pout. "Why didn't you name ME Elizabeth Grace?" my little girl asks as she punctuates her big sister's name with a hiss of frustration.
I set down the laundry basket I'm lugging through the living room and turn my head toward my four-year-old.
Her blue eyes churn indignant like a thundercloud on a hot summer's day, and this girl of mine who is never satisfied with the name I chose crosses her arms in front of her chest with a big harrumph.
Trying not to laugh at the theatrics, I move to the couch where my daughter sits sulking. I push back the bangs hanging haphazard across her forehead and slump lower on the cushions so we can perch head to head.
"I didn't name you Elizabeth Grace," I murmur in her ear, "because when you were tucked in my tummy, God gave me the name Magdalene Hope."
I let my words dangle in the air, the sound of Maggie's sniffled breathing ticking off the silent seconds. I hold my little one's hand and say, "And once God whispered that name to my heart, I knew that's exactly who you were going to be. Our one and only Maggie Hope."
My dramatic girl raises an eyebrow and sighs, her vexation melting into sadness.
"But I just want Grace in my middle, Mom. Right between Maggie Moo and Bwuxfort..."
She adds her nickname to the mix and slaughters our fine Dutch surname, but her gaze is so earnest that now I'm not even tempted to giggle.
Instead, I pull my fifth-born onto my lap and rock her ever so slightly. And as I rest my chin on her tangle-haired-head, I understand her wish.
Grace in the middle. Who doesn't need that?
No matter where life on this earth begins or how it ends, we all need a little grace in the middle. We were made with purpose and our Savior promises joy in the end. But making it through the middle? That's a different story.
The middle is where hours creep long and the view wanes dim. It's where the starting block feels like a distant memory and the finish line looms like an impossible dream.
The middle can douse our dreams, derail our zeal, and diminish our faith. It can make us desperate. For mercy. For hope. For grace.
- When the baby's teething and the toddler's tantrum-ing.
- When the dishes pile high and the laundry's run wild.
- When our souls are empty and our calendars are filled, when our dinner tables are noisy and our accolades are quiet.
- When the bread's burning and our patience has gone up in smoke, when our best isn't good enough and our worst is magnified.
Right in the middle of that darkness, right in the middle of that mess, we need grace.
Grace to take one more step, to utter one more prayer, to risk rejection one more time. Grace to trust in His promises and to cling to His hand.
We linger long there on the couch, me and my girl who wants a new name.
We just rock and cuddle and listen to the patter of rain on the window, the hum of the washing machine a floor below.
And instead of offering my mopey Maggie a lecture on the grandeur of her given name, I simply hold her. Hold her with compassion, right in that middle place of wishing for something different and trying to accept what really is.
And this mom, living somewhere between my beginning and my end, reminds her little girl of one simple truth (Because sometimes we just need to say it aloud for our own road-weary souls):
There is only one name worthy of our wishing, one name deserving of our dreams. And when we keep that name in the middle of our madness, He offers hope in our beginning, glory in our end, and grace for every moment in-between.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being here with me in the middle. May Your grace sustain me in the long days, giving me perspective, courage and hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What circumstance are you facing today where you need God to step in with His gracious help?
Is there someone you know who needs your help? Consider how you can be God's hands and feet to someone this week.
Numbers 6:25-26, "... the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (NIV)