It is hard to be in the place of in-between.
Yesterday I was reading a chapter in “How to Study the Bible for All It’s Worth.” It talked about how focused the Jewish people were during the time of Jesus on the coming of the kingdom of God. They thought it was something that was going to happen all at once, like a magic day when everything would be changed. The book discussed how the early Christians had to deal with a changed paradigm — that the kingdom was not something that came all at once, but something that had begun and was developing. They had some of the blessings of the kingdom, but the ultimate fulfillment was still to come. They were living in an in-between time.
It struck me how much all of us are living in an in-between time. Here in Auburn we are waiting for the church to become a large stable church. In my own life I have people I am praying for to become Christians. I have ways I need to grow, and I see ways others need to grow. We are all stuck in the middle of our journey.
God often placed people in the place of in-between. Abraham wandered in the desert and it took years for God to fulfill his promise of a child to him. Joseph spent years in prison. The Israelites wandered in the desert. Later, the Jewish nation was taken into captivity. Then there were 400 years of silence from God, without prophets, before Jesus came.
The thing that is frustrating about being in-between is that you see so much that needs to happen to get to place you want to go. For me, there are people to reach out to, people to study with, people to build relationships with, people to shepherd. I can get overwhelmed.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
I can be like Martha, even in serving God. I get more focused on thing things I need to do, than on the heart that needs to go behind the things to do.
One thing done well, out of love and faith, is good. One prayer for someone that is conducted out of genuine concern and acknowledgement that I stand in awe of how God will work. One phone call to express how much I care. One act of love towards God.
In Ezekiel 36, God had a magnificent promise for the Israelites who were in the place of in-between. “Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. He speaks to the hills and mountains, ravines and valleys, and to ruined wastes and long-deserted cities that have been destroyed and mocked by the surrounding nations… the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit for my people—for they will be coming home again soon! …I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people. ….I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
God gives us what we need to get through the dry barren places on our spiritual journey. Here are some things we can know while we are in the place of in-between.
To know that Your hand is upon us…
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. Ps 139:9-10
To know that Your focus is upon us…
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isa 49:16
To know that Your help is always there for us…
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Ps 46:1-2
To know that Your good purpose will always prevail…
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps 46:10
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil 1