Several years ago, we were on a road trip from Toronto to Princeton, a mere ten hour drive, which was not far on the spectrum of road trips that my husband and I take. But it was one of those times in life when everything seemed to be not quite right: work was a mess, we were studying hard for a number of classes at that time, and I had just come off of a season of immense grief. I was tired…well beyond the normal level of tired.
So Grant was driving back from our weekend in Toronto at a wedding. He pulled the car over, and I grabbed my shoes (which had fallen haphazardly into the back seat), crawled out from under a pile of blankets and pillows, and emerged from my car-cocoon into the cold night air. We were finally home!
As I breathed in the very cold night air, I glanced around at the unfamiliar territory, realizing we were not home at all…we were in a small town in the Poconos, hours from our destination! We were in between—far from where we had come from, and still not there yet!
We find ourselves so often in life in a “land in between.” One woman in my congregation quipped, “Honey, I think all of life is in the land in between.” And it is true! This life is but a blip on the eternal landscape. But there are times, phases, eras of this life in which we find ourselves in even weightier, more challenging places, in between the greater somethings of life. There are times we find ourselves in valleys, and times we find ourselves in deserts of confusion waiting on God to come through with something spectacular.
Have you found yourself waiting for God only knows what? Maybe you have loved one who is terminal and you are waiting for a miracle. Maybe you are unhappily single and are waiting for companionship. Maybe you are recently unemployed and waiting for a new prospect. Regardless of your circumstances, waiting can be extremely difficult.
But there are a couple of things that make the in-between more bearable…
We are not alone in the in-between! The Bible is laced with stories of people in the in-between. God’s people, the Israelites, get caught in the in-between on several occasions. In fact, it almost seems as if they are in the in-between more often than not in the pages of Scripture.
For forty years, the Israelites traipse about in the desert, wandering onward toward the ever elusive “Promised Land.” They get caught in the wilderness for four decades in between slavery and reaching a new place. But many years later, they experience an even longer exile in a land in-between. The prophet Jeremiah even tells the people to root themselves there, plant gardens, get comfy, because most of the people were going to live their whole lives in that land in-between.
The land in-between is a land of preparation. If you find yourself in the in-between right now, this may not be a solace. I hate waiting! I get it. But perhaps something is changing in your heart that is preparing you for the next stage. We often experience stages of instability, stages of waiting, stages of the unknown to prepare us better for what lies ahead.
Just before Jesus went out to do ministry, he spent some serious time in the wilderness, waiting, praying, and preparing. If you are in a time of waiting right now, what might God be preparing you to do or to be?
God doesn’t waste time or resources. God’s creation is intentional, and so are God’s people. If you are in a period of waiting right now, it may feel very futile! But there are likely things going on in the in between that are shaping and forming you in some way.
I am not a patient person. And as a task-oriented, efficient, introvert, I could do without ever waiting in a line again. My husband doesn’t like waiting either, but he is much better at it than I am. Every line he stands in he sees as an opportunity to connect with people. Rarely do I see him standing with strangers where he doesn’t strike up a conversation. It’s what makes him a great pastor…and it’s why I do the grocery shopping. But I love watching him wait, because he sees purpose in all of it. He doesn’t waste the waiting.
I am learning what it means to not waste the periods of waiting. Perhaps waiting is uncomfortable, but living in the in-between may just be what I need sometimes.
Pierre Teihard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, wrote this meditation on waiting, published in “Hearts on Fire.” Spend some time reading it, maybe while you are standing in line somewhere! Read it a few times over and ask what God may be doing in your waiting.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”