“In between” times

We may mark our lives by the big events, but most of our lives are lived “in between” those times. Most of our days are not exceptionally wonderful or awful. Each of us can look back over our lives and see some incredible highs and painful lows; there have been life changing turning points and moments of great clarity. But those are not the norm for me. And I suspect it is how we choose to live in between that prepares us for our highs and lows and turning points.

What do you choose to do with your in between times? When you’re in between appointments or jobs or relationships? When you’re out of the pit, but can’t quite see the mountaintop? When you feel that dis-ease about where you are, but don’t really have a plan for whatever is next?

It is easy to be passionate about my relationship with God during the times when I see him at work in my life. It’s easy to be intentional about seeking God when he’s answering my prayers with the answers I want, or when things are hard and I realize that he’s my only hope. But what about the in between times? In between celebrations or crises? When I’m just trudging through the mundane and the necessary, hoping for a glimpse of the eternal? When I feel like I’m just “putting out fires”, rather than making actual progress? When I want to be obedient, but I have no idea what that looks like right now? Those moments when I’ve had that “mountain top” experience or that overwhelming sense of God’s presence or guidance were more often the exception than the rule.

The Bible is full of the stories of people who were at the highs and lows of their lives. We study their successes and failures, their turning points, and their reactions to crisis and victory. But plot summaries usually skip over the “in between” times of their lives. Joseph spent many years in slavery and prison before God raised him up to power in Egypt. Moses spent 40 years shepherding in the desert before God met him at the bush. Daniel spent decades in captivity in Babylon….and we only have three big stories of his encounters with God during all those decades. We’re not sure how many years Anna and Simeon waited in the Temple to see the Messiah. What we do know about each of these is that their faithfulness during their in between times prepared them for their defining moments.

Joseph can’t have enjoyed slavery or prison, but it is obvious that his attitude in both created relationships that enabled him to rise to power. Moses’ learned some practical things during his years as a shepherd in the desert; he also learned enough spiritual things to chose to obey God when he confronted the burning bush. Daniel spent a lot of years being obedient in the everyday things, even when he didn’t face God’s handwriting on the wall or a den full of hungry lions.

When I was in school, I learned that my study habits in between tests made all the difference in my ability to study for that test. I took the kind of courses that lasted an entire semester, but usually only had two or three assessments that the professor used to calculate my grade. Most days, I wasn’t graded. But when I was, it really mattered. When I took good notes every class, when I did the readings and assignments, I had what I needed to be ready for the tests that would determine my grade. What I did in between major grades determined what my grades were.

Right now I am in a time of my life that is “in between”. I’m in between growing kids and grandkids. In between youth and old age. In between my last success and my next victory. In between deep pain and however God is going to heal it. In between striving to be obedient that I may bear abundant fruit and a plentiful harvest of my efforts. And how I choose to be obedient in the mundane, daily, seemingly unimportant details of my life right now are equipping me for whatever is to come. How I seek and obey God in these in between times will, to a large extent, determine my strength and peace for the next high/low/crisis/turning point of my life. My daily choices and habits during the in between times will teach me what I need to know about myself and God and will strengthen my faith so that when my burning bush comes, I will be ready to choose obedience.

Right now, what are you recovering from? Learning to live without? What are you hoping for? Preparing for? Afraid of? Trying to survive? Whether your life is marked by celebration or desperation, God is present. Make quiet time for him this day so that he may prepare your heart and your mind for whatever is to come.