I’ve been thinking of late about the in-betweens in our lives. The more I think about it the more I realize that our lives are littered with in-betweens. I have also begun to understand that there are different types of in-betweens, some more significant than others. Perhaps you have found yourself in some of these. Have you ever been in-between a job, a career or a relationship? Perhaps you have found yourself traveling and were in-between cities or even continents. In-betweens bring with them a whole set of emotions. I have experienced great excitement, other times paralyzed by great fear. I have sometimes not even realized I was in an in-between. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is an in-between…. sometimes filled with great contentment cuddled in the arms of reflection and other times great ideals cheered on by the voices of regret. Sometimes we use in-betweens to move to bigger and better and other times we use in-betweens to live in the past. However you want to look at an in-between, there are many of them, and I believe God uses them much the same way a fine surgeon uses a scalpel.
I remember when Lisa and I were engaged to be married. We had been friends for about six months before we started dating. We were both young and eager to start our lives and had dated for about six months before we decided to get married. The engagement itself lasted about six months. We were married on December 28, 1986, and we now have celebrated 33 years of marriage. I remember the engagement season as a significant in-between. We were committed to each other as a husband and wife; however, we were not yet husband and wife. We spent much time talking about our wedding and subsequent marriage. We dreamed dreams, we talked a lot, did some arguing and tried to imagine the life that we were eager to get to. The in-between was not sustainable because its very existence was hinged on the outcome. There would be no in-between if we had not decided to move from friends to fiancé. Therefore, I remember experiencing frustration because we had not yet arrived but were well on our way. We were free to change course anytime. We were also free to accelerate the in-between at any cost. However, wisdom prevailed. God uses these in-betweens as teaching seasons.
God uses in-betweens to prepare us. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women living life in the in-betweens. In fact, the more I look the more I see. Moses spent forty years in an in-between. Joseph spent at least 13 years in one. Ruth, Daniel, Hannah, David and many others had them too. Jesus had several in-betweens. I think of the time from His birth and the beginning of His career. The thirty-year period was a season of preparation. He grew up as a man, respected for His skill and wisdom. He also grew up with a growing awareness of His calling, His purpose and who He really was. I think my in-betweens often do the same. What has God revealed to me as to the true nature of my character? How has my character, my identity and my purpose been revealed during my in-between? What work is left to do?
I have also found that I gain new perspectives during am in-between. I have found that in-betweens have a unique way of giving me a perspective of myself from angles that I typically don’t see. For example, when I’m settled, I tend to begin to take things for granted, other times I lose my sense of wonder because it is what it is. I have found that I can get sloppy, flippant or entitled. Have you ever lost something only to realize just how precious it was when you didn’t have it anymore? Perhaps you never realized you had it in you until you were in the in-between. Have you ever said, I would never speak in public or write a book or start a family until you were thrust into the in-between? I remember thinking that the one job I had was the job for life only to realize a month later I no longer had it. I was in one of my many in-betweens. Today, I look back and realized that God allowed that to happen to better reveal His will and create a win win. I didn’t see God’s perspective at the time.
God has taught me patience during my in-betweens. There is something about an in-between that slows you down. I see things I normally miss during my in-betweens. Perhaps God is trying to help me see something different. Perhaps He’s protecting me from something. Perhaps I’ve gotten out of step with Him. The in-between allows me to let go of the certainty of the past and the fear and hope of the future and settle in the present. I’m reading a lot about being more present. A few nights ago, I had retired to bed with a house full of family members playing a game. The noise level got quite loud as cheers, jeers and the occasional smack talk took place. Trying to fall asleep was somewhat challenging due to the noise level. However, God suggested I stop trying to sleep and savor the sounds, which I eventually fell asleep too. My in-between caused me to savor something precious. What is it that I’m missing because I’m moving so fast and trying to avoid the in-between or perhaps finding the preverbal short cut?
Finally, I find that the in-betweens are fertile places for hope. Hope acts as a compass for my in-betweens and without it the in-betweens become more of a maze than a pathway. Without my faith I am left to my own perspectives and inability to generate true sustainable hope. Therefore, I am eternally grateful for hope and recognize that the source of my hope is indeed found in my Savior and Lord.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.