When I was in high school, Jimmy Eat World released a song, “The Middle”, two things about the song… it was, and still is, very good and it was one of those songs a high schooler could connect to… because you know they’re all the same, and you’re very different.
The concept jumped back into my head recently. Because it’s weird being in the middle. Home becomes very empty because it seems like there’s only a few in the middle and it’s intimidating trying to find those few in the middle without having to put some of your self on the line.
Here’s the song by the way, because if you’re anything like me once you get a song in your head you just have to listen to it: Jimmy Eat World “The Middle”
I can think of three areas in my life where I feel like I am predominantly in the middle. Identity, politics, theology.
Identity is the one I felt all throughout high school and college. It’s quite weird being O.K. with different, being just fine with your uniqueness and living in them. It’s sure as heck not an easy way to make friends, when those of whom you would befriend are very uncomfortable with, or unsure of, who they are and would much rather conform to some norm. That’s much easier than wrestling with the “who am I?” question and the reality that people might not like you or the answer you come up with.
I felt this same thing in college as well, only this time it wasn’t people trying to fit in because they didn’t know or weren’t comfortable with who they were. It’s that they didn’t know how to be who they were, at least that’s the way it seemed in my campus ministry, which was for the most part the totality of my collegiate social experience. It’s a lot easier to conform to the perceived norm than trying to figure out for yourself how you should be. The problem being the people who I was around sort of went with the flow of the group and I did too, till I began to ask questions of why I should or shouldn’t do this or that, or why I could or couldn’t do it. The questions become theological in a sense, how should one, according to their salvation, be in life and, especially for my campus ministry, in the context of the church.
It’s much easier to not wrestle with the questions and even if you do, it’s still easier to ignore the answers for the sake of esteem and acceptance.
The other two, politics and theology, are far less identity issues… although the concept of going with the flow remains the same.
Going with the flow is really an emotional thing, you get caught up in something and then you let that flow take you… and though one may try, it is extremely hard to step beyond one’s self to truly examine whether or not they are going with the flow. It is very hard to step outside one’s subjective and irrational emotions.
My emotions have led me to middle positions. Politically I’m a moderate. Because I don’t like the heated rhetoric on either side, and I also realize that both sides critique the other side’s positions quite well and likewise, agree with those critiques. So I have been emotionally, but also rationally led to a moderate position. Theologically I’m what would be considered a moderate. Primarily because of the same reasons, but I there are also other issues at place like identity and my experience of salvation.
Again, you find yourself in an empty home.
I’ll admit its probably due more to the context of which I am in more than anything else. I’m no at a pastoral seminary, I’m at a school of theology. Its more left than moderate, but not super liberal. Most of my former friends are all Regan conservatives (or worse capitalist libertarians!) and at UNCG I was in a major with a bunch of social program loving liberals. Here I am with a bunch of disenchanted southerners who experienced the conservative south, didn’t like it and have embraced the ability to be comfortable with a liberal theology.
Two things about the empty home though… 1) It’s always nice to find new members! Just yesterday I was talking with some people only to find out one of them was at Reformed Theological Seminary and contemplated Covenant Theological Seminary. He’s too liberal for them though, but he’s also too conservative for Candler. I was so joyed that I told my friend Amy that I had found another one of us, the Candler underground moderates!
2) It requires some fortitude. You can’t be a moderate without realizing the 70% of the time, if not more, in some conversation your opinion might be going against the flow. The only way to do that is to have a strong sense of self, and strong sense of principle, otherwise you’ll collapse in on yourself… which is a great travesty.
I have fortitude, and I have a strong sense of self.
I credit my parents and Jesus. As cliche as it definitely does sound, it’s extremely true. I, myself, am far too lazy to fight and the flow always seems like a good way to win the battle, but because of the fortitude and sense of identity that is instilled in me from, not myself but, my parents and Christ, I find a that the home in the middle makes good sense and comfort.
The middle isn’t that bad, and it doesn’t matter if it isn’t good enough for someone else.