The Holy Middle Places

I work at a bank and I do things that are the opposite of creative.  I never considered the possibility of a job as only utility until I moved outside the academic world (read: the world where everyone is actively seeking how to stitch their passions and their day jobs together).  My last job was entirely creative – a blank canvas every day waiting to be filled with colorful conversations and plenty of space for big ideas to grow into flourishing campus traditions.  I went to bed every night tired because I gave my big, creative, campus job everything I had while my writing self waited patiently at her cobwebby desk.

So when the opportunity came to switch career paths, I intentionally looked for something not creative.  This caused the Miss Haversham-writer-girl to stand up on that dusty desk and tap dance.  She threw open the curtains and spun words from the new light, because all the creative space belonged to her.  She wrote page after page and they stacked up like my hopes and dreams, all the while getting up every morning to count money and type faster than the adding calculator can add.

But the creative light found me at my day job, and I’m not just talking about the extra thinking time I have to craft characters and plot lines between transactions.  I’m talking about finding goodness in every space, in every middle place.

This is what I mean by that:

I was talking to an elderly woman about switching her terms on certificates of deposit (that’s bank code for how long your money is tied up to gain dividends before you can withdraw it).  She put her hand on her walker and threw her head back and laughed.

“Honey, I’m eighty-five!  I don’t know how much time I have left!  How long have you been married?” She asked, glancing at my ring.

“Two years in July,” I said, smiling back.

And then she got a faraway look in her eye, and she waited for a few seconds before she looked at me and said, “You’re at the time of your life where you have so much to look forward to.”

She whispered those words like she was creating a blessing out of thin air and making that notion real – that I would wake up every day and realize just how much I’m creating new beginnings and endings and middles in this one life.  I love the idea of making days like I’m making my grocery list or tidying up my desk.  And there’s always been something about the middle, the normal hum and buzz of everyday life where God shows up in character, talking right to me.  There’s nothing more middle than a cubicle in a bank in Missouri.

That blessing, just as real as love or babies or dinner at home on Tuesdays, is working its magic on me.  I know I have so much to be thankful for and when I realize it every so often I cry, sit and think for a while, or do both.  But I’m in this season where I want to actively participate in those blessings and be thankfully cognizant all the time, always writing my beginnings, middles, and ends.

And I’m sad to say I slightly wanted to respond to that beautiful elderly-lady-God-in-flesh-with-a-walker like this: “But the crack in our windshield and Mondays and people being mad at me for stuff that was their fault and the stupid election year.”  All the while copies of my book, my flesh and blood creative work, are stashed in my purse to sign for people later, next to my phone that contains loving texts from my husband.

I smiled back at her with my whole self, my face turning a little red because it felt like she saw right through me, and said, “Thank you.”  When what I really wanted to say was, “Thank you for blessing me in my middle place, for seeing through this day job to a human, for sending me goodness when I wasn’t asking for it.” I want to say thank you for my blessings heartily, just like the Jewish people light candles to welcome the Sabbath on Saturday evenings, and consistently, like my grandma used to sew on her Singer in her tiny pantry, providing an entire small town with repatched jeans.

And of course, I want to be in the business of creating blessings for others, always helping people say thank you for life.  These blessings normally find themselves wrapped up in beginnings and middles and ends.


What’s your middle place look like right now?

3 responses to “The Holy Middle Places”

  1. Tim says:

    Target. Target is my middle place. It looks like dealing with needy customers who expect you to know the difference between all the shampoos and recommend the best one. It looks like rude coworkers who are nice and passive aggressive and say they love working with you and complain about everyone behind their backs all at the same time. It looks like student loans and dying cars and health insurance. But it also looks like days spent hiking, making myself write and fear less who likes it or who doesn’t, and reading until my eyes fall out of my head. It looks like more free time than I’ll ever have, more time to spend with Reed, and more time to contemplate the beauty of the world. Thank you for the reminder that this middle place is good, that I can find goodness if I just keep my eyes open.

    • Emily Humpherys says:

      Tim, I so needed to read this today. Thank you for living with us in this middle place, and for writing the phrase, “Rude coworkers who are nice and passive aggressive and say they love working with you and complain about everyone behind their backs all at the same time.”

  2. This inspires me so much! The middle places for me are my daily interactions with my students. I often forget that the laughter and frustration and sorrow and work we experience and live out together everyday is in fact a collection of divine moments. I experience Immanuel daily–God is always present. I want to cultivate a mindfulness of the hallowed middle places I am given each day.

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