Neither Up Nor Down

One day, a wise, old king marched ten thousand men up and down a hill.  The soldiers spent part of the day on top of the hill and part at the bottom.  However, while they were climbing and descending, they were at neither extreme.  This undoubtedly factual story made its way into verse and song.  I became familiar in my youth.  “Now, when you’re up, you’re up, and when you’re down, you’re down, but, when you’re only halfway up, you’re neither up nor down.”  It occurs to me that much of life is spent in progression or digression.

While it is easy to think of our days as spent at destinations, truthfully, most of our time is occupied in travelling.  We are always in the going.  Such may take physical considerations, but our journeys can be more ethereal.  Life is development and change.  We don’t have much opportunity to stand still, even to rest.  Seamlessly or not, we go from one thing to the next without thought or choice.  We are not often on top of things, but, similarly, we are not bottomed-out.  Being neither here nor there, we are going somewhere.

Most people are not at the top or bottom of their professions.  Your mechanic is not Mr. Goodwrench, and he’s not Mr. Badwrench.  He’s Mr. Wrench.  Precious few are at the top or bottom of education or endeavor.  Most of us are in the meat of the bell curve.  Little time is spent enjoying rarified air if you are fortunate enough to get there.  We are neither up nor down most of the time.  While we may be headed toward a destination, it’s not all bad or good at the moment.  The glass is half empty or half full depending on perspective.

Most days are not great or terrible.  They are days.  We ask, “How’s it going?” and get the response, “It’s going.”  In fact, I’m a little suspicious of those who always answer casual inquiries into their well-being with overly-optimistic proclamations and exclamations.  The reason is that I know what life is like.  We are not always delighted or despairing.  Normally, we are somewhere in-between.  Life is not lived on mountaintops or in valleys.  The majority of our days are spent on the plateaus of existence.  Normal lives.

There is danger in gravitating to extremes.  Certain live in the depths and drag others there.  If there is no drama, they will bring it.  Similarly, some are incapable of living unspectacularly.  They must live on real or manufactured highs at all times.  Perhaps, it is that common life is more, well, common, and they seek the intensity of decadence or deprivation.  At any rate, the staples of life do not satisfy.  That’s a shame because life is mostly not lived on the edge.  While there may be times of extravagance and exertion, nominality is normality.

We should learn to see glory in the ordinary.  Because something is not flashy does not mean it is not substantive.  The scenery is more than surroundings if we take time to absorb the familiar.  All around us are people living extraordinary lives after their fashion though they not go viral.  There is beauty in simplicity.  It may be the only real beauty attainable.  If we learn to appreciate the small gifts in life, we will not lack joy.  No one should set at naught the little things that combine to build the edifice, and, in small measure, life may perfect be.

Goodness and godliness are grasped incrementally.  Scripture informs that we learn line by line.  We gain a little “here and there” until we have gathered the whole.  God works in small things and ways to build and mold our lives.  Too often, we have hoped to reach our goals through lofty experiences and have overlooked orchids while looking for roses.  Our Lord is continuously working if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  It is a mistake to think He is only present when we are inspired or in great need.  God is there- up, down or neither.


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