Someone Has to be in the Middle

Uzbekistan Airways Boarding Pass

I looked at my boarding pass. 8B. Smack in the middle like the white of an Oreo cream cookie, only not yummy.

And I hate the middle.

The tickets were purchased late. A last-minute trip to grieve with family over loss. Last-minute tickets yield middle seats. The grid that showed us available seat options on the website was blue in the middle and occupied white everywhere else.

While the middle of a cinnamon roll is something to crave, to fight over, the middle airline seat is something to run from. Squished between two strangers, last zone to board, looked at with hostility as you walk down the aisle — nothing good about the middle!

But. Someone has to be in the middle. Someone has to squish between those two strangers. Someone has to turn this seat into opportunity. Someone needs to see the humor of two people whose names you don’t know, mouths open in sleep, a slight snore coming from one of them, falling on my shoulders. The one in yellow is on my right, the one in black on my left.

I settle in for a long flight. Can there be hope in the middle?

I’ve packed all my reading material, and, because I was last to board they took away my bag at the gate telling me I would meet it at the other end. All I have is a One Thousand Gifts Devotional I’d ordered on a whim. There’s a space at the back to count those gifts or graces, count the moments I’m thankful for — even if I’m not really thankful.

So I open it and write “Seats in the middle” Right under it I write “Hope in the middle”.

I scan through the titles of the devotionals. The word Grace is in all 60 titles. I flip to Devotion number 5. It’s called ‘Here-Now Grace’. That’s the one I need. I’m tired, I know it’s a long flight, I’ve got worry hanging on my shoulders like a back pack full of bricks. And I’m in the middle seat. I need ‘Here-Now Grace’.

I read the words several times before I accept their reality. “The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountaintop experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here in the messy, piercing, ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible. The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.”*

So I’m not off the hook. The holy grail of joy is here in the middle and I need ‘Here-Now Grace’. Because Someone has to be in the middle.

*From One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp