As for God, His way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him. - Psalm 18:30 NIV
The in-between. It’s an uncomfortable place to be. One moment we’re thankful for how far we’ve come - the next minute, bitter over the gap that’s not shrinking (or at least not shrinking fast enough) that fills the space between where we are and where we want to be.
You can find me there now - living in between. Halfway through my masters program - still no career to show for the 20 years of schooling I’ve been put through. And not quite where I dream to be with my pursuit of writing and speaking.
It can be lonely. Wondering if those nine-to-fivers “get me” as I carry on with my unconventional schedule. And then you sprinkle in pinches of comparison and jealousy here-and-there - observing the lives of those who are already “living the dream.”
Maybe you’re rubbing shoulders with me. You know just how it feels. Half of your friends are still in college; the other half are getting married and having babies. Where do you fit?
Maybe you graduate soon and have had several job interviews. Now you wait. And wonder. And feel the sticky, humid, musty discomfort of the in-between.
Truthfully, 90% of the time I manage to be filled with joy in that musty hallway. But I write candidly here, on a night when the odor of the in-between has my eyes welling up and dripping over - acknowledging the discomfort - as an effort to link elbows and say, “Hey, you. You’re not alone on those nights of the 10%.”
If you’ll trust me, I want to tell you how I’m finding joy in the 90%.
We hear a lot of cliché phrases like, “I’ll praise you in the storm” or “When God closes the door, look for a window.” But how do we actually do these things? How do we turn feel-good Pinterest quotes into real life movements of the heart?
For me, it comes down to three things:
1. Treasuring His promises.Over the last few years of the in-between, God has been showing me the power of remembrance. How actively and intentionally reflecting on the past is a sort of discipline or habit, which can transform our lives in the present. One way that I like to do this is by taking an inventory of God’s promises in the Bible. Promises like, “I will never leave you, or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6)” provide a lot of healing to my heart when I’m feeling forgotten. When I treasure God’s promises, I am taking the attention off of myself, and instead focusing on the perfect God who is caring for me. It is difficult to be bitter when I recognize how good the Lord actually is to me.
2. Humbling my heart. This leads to my second point: Humble my heart. Often in the in-between, on those 10% days, my heart is fixated on all that I deserve, all that I’ve earned, and all that I feel God owes me. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s a part of our nature as self-centered, prideful human beings. When I study God’s Word and take note of who God is in the story (always right, powerful, just, good, creative, and the perfect hero), I’m reminded of who I am in the story (the foolish, self-righteous, entitled, fickle, imperfect criminal). Remembering my place, and that God loves me in spite of who I truly am, causes a shift of stillness and wonder in my heart. I’m no longer resentful and demanding, and instead trusting and glad to submit to whatever the Lord has for me.
3. Giving thanks. Giving thanks is the most practical of the 3, but I put it last on the list, because gratitude cannot grow from a heart that is bitter or proud. When I’m grumbling in the 10%, I’m not seeing with clear lenses - it’s not possible for me to be thankful for anything because my vision is blocked by all that I don’t have and all that I’m missing. But when I focus my heart on God’s promises, His character, and where I stand, the fog is lifted and I can see a new light.
I see the blessings that have come in the in-between. I see the opportunities I would have missed, had I moved on more quickly. I see the ground below my feet as fertile soil for growing, rather than a dry and dead land. I’m able to celebrate those around me, rather than resent their unique paths. I’m able to acknowledge the reality that no one lives a meaningful life by teleporting from one place to another. And that the real meaning and beauty is found in the in-between: where reliance on the Lord no longer seems optional, where resilience is formed, and where grace is given.
I haven’t got it all figured out. And that 10% still comes and goes. It probably always will. So instead of fighting it, would you join me in acknowledging it? Looking the in-between straight in the eyes, feeling the pain, and then laying it down in the lap of the one whose directing your steps. After all, the in-between didn’t catch Him off guard. He’s numbered the days with meaning and purpose; and He’ll surely be there through it all.
1. What “triggers” or situations tend to bring up feelings of discontentment and unrest in your present circumstances?
2. What changes can you make in your life, not to eliminate the in-between, but to find more joy in the midst of it?
3. What is one promise or characteristic of God that you can trust in this week?
Heavenly Father, I acknowledge Your sovereignty - how in control you are. I acknowledge that Your mind is more powerful and Your thoughts are mightier than mine. You are a God of perfect plans and no mistakes. Help me to trust in You and find joy in You, rather than in myself and my circumstances. Give me the courage to live fully and with gratitude in my in-between. Give me eyes to see the beauty that is still here, and help me to see our plans and purposes for the place You have my feet planted in. Give me trust and patience that surpasses the natural posture of the human heart. I pray this, knowing You hear me, You love me, and that You haven’t left me unattended or cared for. You are good. Amen.
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