Perhaps middle tint is the palette of faithfulness. Middle tint is going to church each week, opening the prayer book each day. This is rote, unshowy behavior, and you would not notice it if you weren’t looking for it, but it is necessary; it is most of the canvas.”
(Lauren Winner, Still)
In her striking and beautiful work, Lauren Winner explains how artists use a middle tint in paintings. The work is finished and the middle tint is overlooked and forgotten, but without it, the darks and the lights wouldn’t have definition or depth.
I am beginning to feel like we’re living this middle tint.
After a whirlwind of marriage and moving and a new job and a new city and finding a church and making a little home, we are finally starting to settle into routines and everyday sorts of life.
I’m starting to feel used to living with a boy. I know a few different routes to work so when one is full of traffic, I can just turn down a different street and take the back way. We have a Sunday morning routine and my visits to Trader Joe’s take less and less time as I learn where everything is. We go to bed early and eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. Our weeks are punctuated by “Matt night” with our good friend and an occasional meal out when we put on a nice sweater or a button down and pretend like we’re adults.
This middle is sweet and good. It is where we establish habits and rituals that will form us into who we are when the darks and the lights come our way. Like so many of us, I am quick to worry that we are getting stuck in the middle tint; that life is routine or that every weekday looks the same. I write this not to discount the importance of growth and new investments of time and energy, but to remind myself and others that the middle tint is necessary. It is our foundation, our grounding. It is most of life.
It is where we learn faithfulness, perseverance, hope, and rest. But this undertone holds so many subtleties. My words, my actions, my attitudes at 5:45 every morning when my alarm goes off, and my daily routines: they are all teaching me to love something. They are forming my loves. They are establishing these rituals that will last for years to come. How do I respond to something when I feel slight annoyance? Am I teaching myself to pray for joy each morning when I wake up? Practices become routines and these routines stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Already, the Lacy family rituals are forming, and we pray that they are life-giving and God-loving. Here are a few ways we are seeking to sow faithfulness in this middle tint:
The Book of Common Prayer teaches us to pray. In the morning, in the evening, for those who live alone, for families, for institutions. It is our companion before we go to bed, and the place we turn for words of confession and hope.
We read. A lot. We learn about ritual and about those who have gone before us. And we read stories: lots of stories. We read stories because they gives us greater narratives than our own. They place us within the human race and teach us mercy, understanding, and truth. When we read, we think, and we talk a lot about what we’re thinking.
Most importantly, we eat at the Lord’s table every Sunday, praying that the body and the blood would sanctify, nourish, teach, and sustain us. “Through our immersion in it, the gospel sinks into our bones,” (James Smith) and every Sunday afternoon, we are ready again for the routines of the week to come.
Praise God for the middle tints in life. They are creating a masterpiece greater than Mozart or Van Gogh, a painting that we will not see until the end, one that is carried and held through grace by the faithfulness, steadfastness, purity, and truth within the middle colors.
Understand this: we are both tiny and massive. We are nothing more than molded clay given breath, but we are nothing less than divine portraits, huffing and puffing along mountain ranges of epic narrative arcs prepared for us by the Inifinite Word Himself.
(N.D. Wilson, Death by Living)