Living In The Midst
by Ken Hornsby
It recently occurred to me that the season I am currently in, while not unique, is uniquely mine. The chasms separating joy and sorrow, agony and ecstasy, best and worst, seem even more inseparably wide than I had previously imagined; and yet, it seems, there are no chasms at all. How can it be possible to be living in such depths of excruciating pain one moment, and in the very next, swooning from the absolute pleasure of being overwhelmed in the Master’s Presence? I should be so cursed! I should be so blessed!
My life has taken many dramatic turns in the past 2 years. There has been more spiritually seismic activity during this time than in any other. Had I previously known what I would be availing myself to, I might have made different choices. The pain often becomes unbearable. I sometimes question myself if it has been worth it. Likewise, knowing what I know now, I would not change a thing. The quality and depth of relationship that I have with Jesus far outweighs any temporary, light affliction. I am in a most wonderful place.
It began innocently enough, the result of a regular phone greeting between my friend, Dave and me. After shouting out our nicknames to one another and asking the obligatory “What’s up?” to one another (it’s a guy thing), our standard answer had become something to the affect of “I’m livin’ revival, man! It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times!” We know each other well enough, that we instinctively knew what the other was experiencing at that particular moment - the best or the worst. The high or the low. The joy or the pain.
We had also learned through many personal situations that you could not experience one without the other. To be revived, something has to die; it usually is not pretty. When the pain is over, the joy comes as the new - the “revived” is experienced. Ah, revival!
We had likewise learned to trust one another absolutely during this season; iron was truly sharpening iron.
And then one day, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, everything changed. Forever. Everything.
As I drove into my driveway and pressed dial on my cell phone, I heard his familiar greeting in my ear (the guy thing, remember). Only this time, my response was a little different. Through a heavily quivering and barley audible voice, I heard myself scratch out, “It’s the best of times, man.”
Tears streamed down my face as I struggled through still more silence. He knew something different was “up.”
“Hmmmmmm. Tell me about it.”
My throat was so tight, I could barely speak. I repeated, “It’s the best of times, man. It really is the best of times.” He wasn’t sure if I was trying to convince myself or him, that my condition at that moment could truly qualify as the “best of times.”
As I continued to share out of my brokenness, he became aware that neither one of us needed to be convinced of anything. The presence of God was palpable. And at that moment, that was all that mattered. An Eternal Now moment shared in the midst of friends and their eternal Daddy.
Just moments earlier, the “change” had been set into motion. I was going through a very difficult situation, and was going to call him to share my thoughts and get some encouragement. When thinking about the incredible pain I was in, I had already anticipated and rehearsed my end of the conversation. Though experiencing the pain of the worst of times, I knew I was going to grow through it. I would laugh a hearty laugh as I told my friend it was the best of times, he would share in the pain, and we would enjoy the rich fellowship. But this time it would be different.
“It really is the best of times, you know.” The Voice was unmistakable. Daddy!
Tender. Compassionate. Comforting. Loving. Reminding me He was with me in my pain.
I had not anticipated this sudden intrusion. And yet I ran with open arms to welcome it.
By this time, I was incapable of driving. I am glad I was in my driveway.
I was experiencing the Kingdom. I was experiencing “…you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)
That Eternal Now moment is forever etched in my being.
No matter what my external, temporal circumstances are, I am forever marked within and upon by that which is eternal - God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forever enjoined in fellowship, one with another, in turn enjoining me in that incredible fellowship with Them. In the midst of an absolute worst day, how could it truly be anything else than “The Best of Times?”
Scripture is filled with moments when what appears to be the worst of times actually turns out to be the best of times: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; Daniel in the lion’s den; the woman caught in adultery; the road to Emmaus; Paul and Silas in prison, to name a few.
For the sake of illustration, I will share two more and conclude with a few personal thoughts.
“When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came…he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days again, His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands, and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God! (John 20:24-28)
Before the crucifixion and after the resurrection, Jesus always met people where they were. Everything had changed, nothing had changed. Meeting them in untoward places and situations. Meeting them in moments of mortal and personal extremity. There He was. In their midst.
“Midst”, as a word in and of itself, has an interesting Biblical translation. It comes from the word middle. With added phrases including words such as in, into, and through, midst becomes an understood and utilized word. We know and understand what it means to be in the midst of someone or something.
As I have studied this word and its accompanying phrases more closely, I have found a most interesting pattern: there is a connotation of unfinished. If you are “in” now, you were probably “out” at one point, and quite possibly could be again. Likewise, “into” and “through” carry a similar connotation of unfinished. There is an unseen, albeit seen process involved.
For me, the most amazing discovery of being “in the midst” is the link that it shares with the Eternal Now process.
We live in the Eternal Now. Each moment that we live in, is in Eternity. Our past, while made up of Eternal Now moments, is past. They helped shape how we view and live in our Now, and will shape how we view and live in the Now that is yet to come. This is not spiritual hocus pocus or new age philosophy. It is the Eternal Now Kingdom.
I realized some time ago that my view of Scripture and much of my understanding of who the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are, have been influenced by the American religious system we call church. Sadly, church is nothing more than just that: a religious system borne out of the philosophy of Roman law and jurisprudence. It has become further corrupted by our own tainted philosophies and ideas about Who this beautiful Triune God really is. Rather than relying upon the beauty of knowing the Godhead through personal relationship, we at best, corrupt the relationship with philosophy, and at worst depend solely upon philosophy. God has never been about philosophy. He has always been about relationship.
Having always been about relationship, He has always desired to be in our midst. We are reminded of that throughout Scripture. Try reading it through His eyes, rather than through the tainted versions of what you have already learned. He wants us to want to be in His midst. Try spending more personal time with just Him, putting away your philosophies about Him, and really listen to what He tells you. I bet you will be surprised.
Having walked away from the institutional church, I have walked away from much of what I once held dear. I have not walked away from God, or people, or relationships. But I did say farewell to all of the religious entrapments of the church system. Ultimately, I have walked into something that is much more beautiful.
So what has changed? Everything and nothing.
Knowing that I am living in the Eternal Now in the midst of the Eternal One, I have come to understand that it is always the best of times.
Holding my baby granddaughter, she who was made in the image of love, and hearing her coos and laughter, I feel His joy surround us. It is always the best of times, living in His Midst. Sharing a moment of laughter with my wife, and hearing Him rejoice over us in song is an amazing place to be. It is always the best of times, living in His Midst.
My personal philosophies and circumstances, and how I respond to them or live out of them no longer define me. When I am in the worst pain imaginable and I feel hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I suddenly change when I realize they are not my tears , but His. It is always the best of times, living in His Midst. When I am so broken I cannot lift my eyes to see His face, yet I can feel His breath and hear His Voice of love in my ear, I suddenly change. It is always the best of times, living in His Midst.
No matter what my personal or temporal circumstances are, they are defined by living in the Eternal Now. It is always the best of times. After all, I am living in His Midst. firstname.lastname@example.org