We can never truly appreciate the end without the middle. The place where life just seems to stand still. Where we wonder how to move forward, but the loss, the pain, the frustrations, are still so recent and new. We sit there, head in our hands, asking why. Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to be the one who went through this? Why did I have to be the one who lost my job? My house? My loved one? We sit there, wanting to move forward, but honestly we are lost on the how to. We must appreciate this middle place though. The place where the world seems to be on hold. The place where our dreams seem to distant and unachievable. It is here in the middle place, in the place of suffering, that sometimes we must sit. For in sitting in the suffering, in enduring the pain, once we do come out of this season, break our addictions, learn to cope in healthy ways, we will truly be able to appreciate the ending to our story. The consummation of the promises that Jesus offers for us. Our End Game.
Last night me, my brother, and his friend went and saw the new Marvel’s Avengers End Game. In short, it was INCREDIBLE. One of the best movies I have ever seen.
If you aren’t familiar with the series, let me give you a little bit of a recap. In the last Marvel Avengers movie Infinity War, the Avengers had failed to stop Thanos (the villain) from wiping out half the planet with one snap of his fingers after he had collected all the infinity stones.
Endgame begins in this post apocalyptic world following this event. With half the planet now gone, things are very different. Streets are empty. People are scattered. Destruction is rampant. The world has been turned upside down.
There is a scene in the movie that really encapsulates this time of loss. Captain America and about six other people are meeting together in sort of a support group. They are going around and sharing about what it has been like since their losses. You can feel the tension. The hurt. The feeling of what are we supposed to do now. What is the point anymore? This was the collective question reverberating throughout the sparsely filled room.
I think at some point or another, we all find ourselves here. In this place of loss. Confusion. Numbness. Where we know we have to move forward but we are unable to for one reason or the other. We all cope with this place in different ways.
In the movie, we find each character dealing with their loss in one way or another. Some have moved on and almost forgotten the life that was, such as Iron Man, who has a wife and daughter now, and has moved out into the countryside. Captain America has continued to try to be strong for others but deep down, he is lost. Black Widow tries to distract herself with work, but at the end of the scene, she breaks down crying. Hawk-eye becomes an international assassin who wreaks havoc. We have Thor, who is overcome with guilt of having the powers of a god, but still being unable to save the planet from the ultimate destruction. He blames himself. So he numbs himself by drinking excessively.
I’m not gonna lie, this part of the movie was pretty slow. I kept thinking can we just get on with the good stuff? I’m tired of being here in the middle.
As the movie progresses, we see a character, Ant Man, who had been seemingly lost in the quantum realm, only to return miraculously. He offers our downtrodden heroes some hope. That this fate that they find themselves in is not the end. The team, under the guise of Iron Man, and the Hulk, construct a device that allows the team to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones, and bring back their friends.
Along the way, their efforts are met with resistance. Resistance first from each other, then by the evil forces and time. They experience more loss. Pain. Injuries. Even up until the last scene, they are fighting Thanos with all they have, trying to pull the infinity stone ridden glove from his hand. Trying to stop him from still winning.
Finally, just when you think the Avengers have once again lost, Iron Man ends up with the infinity stones. He snaps his fingers and the enemies disappear.
As I left, I was spent, not only from sitting in the theater for over three hours, but also because that movie took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion. You got to truly experience and feel the pain of loss that the characters felt, but then the overwhelming joy when all was restored.
God began to speak to me in a really simple way as I left the theater. The thought He gave me was this: You can’t truly appreciate the end without experiencing the agony of the middle.
Even though the beginning of the movie was slow, and didn’t seem like it would end, it was setting the stage for the glorious revival of those who had been lost. Without seeing and feeling the agony of those left behind, we would not have been able to truly appreciate all that came with the return of those who had been lost.
Thus it is with our lives. The middle of our stories seem long, boring, tedious, and unnecessary. They are filled with pain. Questions. Doubts. Confusions. We don’t see where we are going in the middle of our stories. God does though. He sees our End Game. He knows that even here in this middle place, that there is a lot to learn, and to be appreciative of. It is here in the hard times that we learn who we are and whose we are.
So today, if you are in a middle place, be thankful for where you are. I know it’s tough. I’m here too. It’s good to be here though. God is growing us here in the place where our dreams seem to be on hold, and life seems to be at a standstill. He is doing a work in each and every one of us, and this work one day will be consummated through Christ.
It will be on that day, that we will see how worth it it was to experience the pain that we’ve experienced, the loss that we’ve felt, and the hardships that we’ve faced. In the middle places, we will be able to look back and see God’s guiding hand pushing us forward, cleaning us up, and making us stronger. Our End Game is coming. Take joy in the middle places. For the pain of the middle makes the joy of the end so much more glorious and sweeter.