The Messy Middle

What happened during "after a long time..."

As we kick off another year of resolutions and clean slate thinking on our dreams and desires, I wanted to share a verse with you that has been floating around in my head.

Matthew 25:19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used what He had given them.”

Not the most inspirational passage – I know.

This passage is near the beginning of a memorable parable that Jesus taught as He was getting closer and closer to Jerusalem and all that would then transpire (betrayal, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension). Most people think it’s just a lesson about money,  and it is to some degree.  However, I get lost in this particular verse because of the grand narrative of life and the kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about. 

If you know the story, the master gifts 3 servants with talents (talent = amount of money) to use and invest for Him while He’s gone.  It then says in verses 16-18, that the one who received 5 talents went out and put it to work and got back 5 more.  The one who received 2 talents gained 2 more, but the man given only 1 talent went and hid his in the ground. Most people focus on the one who disobeyed and use this parable to make other people feel guilty.

However, that’s not what has had me pondering this passage for the last couple of months.

It’s these words that get me, “after a long time…”

You see, I think Jesus was talking about our entire lives, and the account we will give for the life we’ve been blessed (by Him) with.  We quickly RUSH to the point of the story where the first two servants DOUBLED their investments and get congratulated by the MASTER (verses 21 & 21 “Let’s party together”).

I get lost thinking, “WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE?’ What happened during that period of “a long time…” the life that those persons lived? They obviously didn’t IMMEDIATELY double their investment.  This wasn’t a “one and done” action or decision.  It must have each taken their ENTIRE LIFE to see this come to fulfillment.

So it begs us to ask the questions before we get to the conclusion of the story…

How long did they have to hustle before they even saw any return on their investment?
Did they ever find themselves discouraged?
Did they ever take 1 step forward only to have circumstances beyond their control push them 2 steps back?
How many investments did they make?
Did they change careers multiple times in order to make this happen?
Did they ever need help from friends along the way?

I think we are sometimes TOO QUICK in jumping to the conclusions that we read in Scripture that we don’t place ourselves in the TENSION of the story that would have had to unfold in real time. MOMENT BY MOMENT.  DECISION BY DECISION. ACTION BY ACTION.

When I think of where I am today in my life, it hasn’t simply been a steady UPWARD and the RIGHT state of growth or even all positive ROI’s for me.

My life has been a series of steps forward, backward, sideways, and loop-d-loops! I’ve discovered that I had more to invest than just what I perceived I had originally (that money bag was fuller than I imagined).  I’ve lost it all, wasted much, and invested poorly at times. I also risked everything, seen blessing beyond my imagination, and experienced growth when I least expected it or planned for it!

I want to MORE than double the investment of my life that God has blessed me with!  However, I can’t escape the tension of living day to day and watching it move slowly and often in ways I couldn’t have imagined (both positive and negative).

I’m called to EMBRACE that TENSION in life, because that’s part of the account that I will give Him when my life is over.

I don’t see (even from the parable) that God is ONLY interested in the BOTTOM LINE.  He gives the same response and the same reward to both stewards who had different “profits” when it was all said and done.

NO, I believe He is intimately engaged in the TENSION that we face every day, every NEW YEAR as we make decisions to continue to RISK ALL WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN for HIM, or if we will simply HIDE IT (play it safe, risk nothing, live in fear) and have nothing to show for it.

I believe He honors those who are working at it day by day, moving one step forward after getting knocked two steps back. He rewards those who spend their lives in a PERSISTENT pursuit of leveraging all they have for HIS purposes. He comforts those who are IN THE MIDDLE and struggling with not seeing the results YET but are daily surrendered to His will.

So the final question that remains from this blog is simple?

How will you INVEST what God has given you THIS YEAR to keep pushing forward as you embrace the TENSION of living through the MIDDLE of your story?

We will all be held in account one day. How will YOUR STORY be told to others? 

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