Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Body and its Scars

A contemplative moment
brings presence to be
I look over my body
and what do I see.
I considered the scar
that last year I sustained
but then I was drawn
to one my childhood contained.
Deeper knowledge came flooding in
at the level of my soul
and suddenly my soul’s awakened
unravelling me from whole.
There I ponder “ME”
apart from my earthly design
there I was before God
alone, there was me, just mine!
Standing there as if naked
before all of heaven’s acclaim
there as if I could see it all
and most to be seen was my pain.
These scars I bear, as I dare
were worth this burrowing within
for there they were, so easy to be seen
so God could show me the purpose of my sin.
See, far from the gaze of our judgemental way
is the Lord’s encountering touch
sin’s not meant to condemn
but to show us we’re trying too much.
The scars on my body
however ugly they may be
just help me to enter my soul
in order simply to see.
These bodily remembrances of past
that remind me of untenable regret
are left there on my body
in order that I may not forget.
Deeper still, the metaphor’s known
as body makes way for soul
there I find myself reflect
considering my scars and their role.
However real in my body
my scars make me to feel
the truth as it stands is sound
my scars cause me to heal.
Who would have thought my scars
would come to be the very foundation
upon which to enter the courts of God
and discover this true God of creation?

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The good news, when next year won’t be easier, but harder

I asked a friend after a recent graduation event, “How has your year been?” Having just finished medical school in the past two years, and having gone into general practice, she looked at me intently and squarely and just said, “I’m sure the years just get harder, don’t they?” She didn’t say this in any sense of being defeated. She’s one of the most capable and resilient people I know.
But it got me thinking. I know 2016 was my worst year thus far, but this year has been just as tough, just fuller within the calling on my life. Even if I was used to capacity for God’s purposes (and I was, and I’m thankful) it was an incredibly tough year, professionally and personally.
Tuck this away, because mark my words, next year won’t be easier. If you’re like me and you’ve limped bruised and wounded to the finish line of this year, don’t expect next year to be easier; it won’t be.
But the good news is this. If we take the meme above as our reference point we’re already defeated, because we’re begging for mercy before the year’s even begun. It would be better to expect next year to be harder if anything. This would motivate us to get our prayer lives in order, to plan better and ahead for our self-care, to reinforce boundaries, and to make time for the important things. It will inspire us to make change where change is needed.
It will certainly be true that we may have wept many silent tears. Perhaps instead of praying that there would be fewer tears, we could pray that we have a richer sense for the Presence of God when we weep. And the very nature of tears is we do wipe our own. Where we receive too much human support, we limit how much God might meet us in our lament; though we do need support as well.
I certainly don’t decry the need people have to lament an incredibly tough year. We can all be forgiven for thinking we can’t go on if life continues as it’s been. But, growth and inspiration for change comes out of severe challenge more so than through ease.
Let’s not forget the words of Jesus, “You will have trouble in this world; but take heart, I have overcome it for you.” — John 16:33
Here’s another more contemporary motivation:
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” — L.R. Knost

Friday, December 20, 2019

What can my Bible teach me about Christmas?

A few months ago, my mother got her first Bible. I’m sure she reads it with more voracity than I read mine. But I just love the way God makes each of us so differently; I’ve a mind for numbers, so much of my memory for the Bible, its books, chapters and verses is catalogued somehow. And then there’s the matter of revelation, where God’s Spirit literally highlights a word or a concept, which starts searches that seem to occur randomly on a daily basis.
Here is what I’m advising my mother as she remains curious about the Christmas in Christ Jesus. Curiosity is what keeps us growing toward knowing and knowing makes us even more curious. What emanates is the fruit of God’s Spirit as it flourishes in our life—all for reading God’s Holy Bible. It really is THAT simple.
Here goes:
Well, we need to start in the obvious of places; the birth narratives themselves. Yes, there’s more than one. Between Matthew and Luke, we have two historical accounts that highlight different facts, as they reveal how two different people would notice or write about the same account but differently.
You could say Luke feels more prophetic and seems to talk more about before Jesus’ birth. It’s wonderful to read about Mary and her relative Elizabeth, the early connection of Jesus with John the Baptist.
You might say Matthew is more the Jewishly faithful account in that it gives the very helpful genealogy of Jesus in chapter 1, before talking about Joseph and his relationship with Mary, his betrothed (the one he was pledged to marry), amid his desire to obey the Jewish Law.
Throughout these gospel accounts, we may notice references to what is located in the Old Testament. There are eight direct prophesies that speak of Christ’s birth, including the virgin birth and his naming, Immanuel, which means “God with us,” in Isaiah 7:14, and the reference that the Messiah (Jesus) would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
Many facts about the birth of Christ are faithfully played out in detail in nativity plays and sets every Christmas. What they may not depict, however, is how arduous and stressful that time must have been for Mary and Joseph, a very young and poor couple in a strange place on their way to abide by the mandated Roman census, because Joseph was from the house and line of David and had to report in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-4).
What I would advise in reading the accounts of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 is to flip between these sections as much as you’re curious. Allow your mind to run free within the over-2,000-year-old narrative between both gospels.
You might also go into Mark and John and wonder why they took a different approach entirely. It’s okay entirely to ask the hard questions. Your Bible can withstand any rigour, and you’ll only grow as you challenge the text for more. Wrestle with the text with others who are more biblically knowledgeable than you are.
The beauty in taking an intentional journey more deeply into the Nativity narrative is it takes us more intently into the life of this man named Jesus; a being both fully man and fully God (the “two natures” man) according to our faith.
What I’m hoping is sparked within you as you interrogate passages like Isaiah 7 and Micah 5 is an interest in the other prophecies of Christ, like in Zechariah, which talks about the Messiah to come. You need to know that Christ and Messiah mean the same thing, as does Saviour. Messiah is Jewish, Christ is from the Greek. Zechariah is an incredible book, thick with meaning for Christians, particularly within chapters 9–14, where there are four prophecies about Christ (9:9; 11:12-13; 12:10; 13:7).
While we’re in the Old Testament, if we want to gain a grasp on the Suffering Servant motif, we can go to Isaiah chapters 45–55, where we learn much about the very nature of the God-man.
But I seem to have digressed.
Actually, perhaps that’s the point. As we lose ourselves in reading this ancient book of books, as we thumb randomly through its pages, being led as it were by the Spirit that gave it to us, we are of a fashion meditating in a way that is so good for our soul.
Try it. It works.
Basic photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Beware the narcissist’s deceptions of understanding

They think they understand you.
They actually say they do.
Perhaps you even trust them,
and they go and gaslight you.
They believe they understand.
They really sincerely do.
But they cannot see the deception
in holding to their point of view.
They cannot believe you feel that way.
They say you don’t understand.
And to top it all off,
they cannot believe your gall
when you make a stand.
They really think they know you,
even as they bark and condemn.
They really think they know you,
all you need do is ask them.
There’s a paradox of understanding for those who are narcissistic. They feel they understand you, but they themselves feel misunderstood by you. So, every conversation is played on their terms, and understanding becomes a pawn they play for their own advantage. They are never genuinely interested in understanding you.
We can know this via these terms:
It’s the height of arrogance when someone feels like they understand someone or an issue without checking whether the other person feels understood. Understanding another person or all sides of an issue is a very complex prospect. Those who are empathetic know this; they err on the side of caution and are always assuming they don’t understand. That there is always more to understand. Indeed, that’s the essence of humility—“I can’t say I know, so I’ll check”—whereas pride says, “I know, alright!”
But the narcissist has the market cornered on understanding—they think. They’re either completely deluded or they’re malevolently manipulating the person who genuinely aims at the high relational ground of mutual understanding.
The trouble is we have a hard time determining the deluded from the manipulative. One common factor, though: both are stubborn and set like concrete in their view.
Now, there’s nothing abnormal in feeling somewhat annoyed at being misunderstood, especially when the other person shows no interest in understanding us. But it is abnormal for any of us to assume, or worse, be insistent, that we understand a person—especially when the other person is saying, “No, you DO NOT understand!”
Playing the game that says, “I understand,” while betraying what would constitute understanding by their actions, should be an insult to our intelligence. But they trust the deception of a mind game that works against a sincere heart.
Playing the game that says, “I can tell you’re confused,” whilst also saying, “understanding me is beyond you,” is part of a ploy to undo us not just in our mind, but at a soul level.
Playing the game that says, “What are you even talking about?” is cruel, because it feigns the intent to understand without ever having any motive to do so. Perhaps they carry it over into, “I asked you several times what you mean… it’s not my fault if you can’t communicate… I’m trying my best to understand you,” and you know they don’t care.
If they cared, they would work patiently at developing their understanding—they would take the task of understanding seriously, and you would feel supported, hopeful, relieved, met.
But as it is, the concept of understanding is their strategy to exploit. A skilled gaslighter has sadistic fun all the while seeing their victim squirm. You never win. Only they do. It’s a game to them, and it’s doubly rewarding for them to know that the process of sending someone up and over the edge is as much fun as the fall is over the other side into the abyss.
It is sheer bliss in any relationship when parties genuinely seek to understand one another.

Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A mercy withheld is a mercy we withhold from ourselves

Unforgiveness in the heart is more toxic to the imbiber than it is to the unknowing person who has no idea they’re not forgiven. And yet, we ought to know the motive of why we forgive; God has forgiven the unforgivable in us.
For no other reason is our forgiveness of another warranted than we, ourselves, did not deserve the mercy of the one who was and is the only one who deserves mercy.
Mercy. It’s not just about some warped concept of “Karma.” Such a popular term in the secularist’s book these days.
Mercy is loving someone despite what they’ve done to us, and perhaps it’s loving them enough to give them an opportunity to face the consequences of their actions.
Certainly, as we withhold mercy from a person by holding them at arm’s length, we put both of us in harm’s way in terms of judgement—and I’m not talking some end-of-life reality of that term.
Even as we remain estranged, even as awkwardness defines our relationship, even as the years span decades, do we find we treat the God with contempt who made us both, out of love in order that we might love.
The toxin of bitterness is like lead to the body. It sticks inside the fissures of the cells of our soul. Certainly, there are instances of bitterness that come about because of the things done to us. And we know that all could change if only another person or people took their responsibility—and we somehow suspect they won’t.
So, under these terms, how do we forgive? Well, we pray that we might one day be in a place to exercise the trust of mercy; that one day we too will have our Joseph moment.
We pray that when that mercy is extended to us by way of a mercy we can offer another, that we have the poise to genuinely forgive while we pave the way for the passage of justice.
The only time that genuine reconciliation takes place is when both parties seek truth, without bargaining the cost away. When the truth is honoured it is often costly. When Jesus went to the cross to save us, it cost him.
Forgiveness is just as much sought as it is granted. We’re only as much Christian as we seek to be forgiven. The more we seek forgiveness, the more Christ is alive in us. It is only as we seek for mercy that we’re humble enough to depict the truth—we need mercy. If we don’t ever or routinely seek mercy, to be forgiven, we pretend we don’t sin, and God calls us liars.
Yet, the biggest test of mercy is when someone asks us to be merciful and we aren’t. As we withhold that mercy, we withhold God’s mercy from ourselves. We must pray that we’re ready to be merciful when the Lord requires it of us.
Do you see how blessed it is to seek another’s mercy—which is vulnerability; just as much as it is blessed to be merciful. If we’re merciful, Jesus says, we’ll be shown mercy, but if we withhold it, it always backfires against us in a preventable bitterness. It’s always far better to be in a situation where we need to be forgiven, for judgement remains poised against those who withhold mercy. Just remember that being merciful is not letting the person off scot-free; it is just as much allowing them to face the consequences of their actions. But if they never seek to be forgiven, that mercy is withheld by God.
Now, the final test of the one seeking forgiveness is their commitment to acknowledging that their deeds were wrong. No amount of forgiveness ever makes what was forgiven right. That’s why it’s mercy!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Deepen your JOY this Christmas

I’ve been watching some inspiring movie clips of late. It’s got me thinking.
Christmas is supposed to be about peace, hope and joy. But we limp to the line, exhausted, disenfranchised, cynical; we suffer disordered instances of seasonal affectation, and spend our final hours fretting about purchasing presents, while we bear grief in our hearts regarding losses we’ve suffered and relationships that went into the abyss. Then there are the ‘next level’ traumas that we have worn. We may even be astonished that this year as we look back would have been unfathomable from last year’s context.
Every now and again, I think of my son who died without taking a single breath, much as we anticipated him at his birth. The circumstances of his stillbirth were a great shock to us, even if we knew he wouldn’t survive long after his birth. And yet, four months previously we had the greatest shock of all, right there in the sonographer’s rooms, and then again eighteen days later by a disturbing diagnosis. There was a lot of unanticipated grief during that season.
These experiences we don’t despise; they deepened us.
It is too easy to become jaded and cynical about life; the very things that God gave us to deepen us, if we’re not careful, will besmirch our peace and destroy our hope. Instead of using the very things that God gave us to build us in stature of maturity, we too easily take those things and want to smite God with them.
The fact is, evils do come into our lives, but God’s will is that these would not crush us to nothing. In the crushing, however, having come again to the limit of our own resources, we invariably fall to our knees in coming to know the only way forward is to surrender in order to derive strength from God. From frustration to despair to surrender to transformation.
If we want to experience something new and transformational this Christmas, we can do better than watch an inspiring movie scene or thirteen. Much better. We can do much better than doing the same thing we’ve always done. Much better than feeling vulnerable emotionally, because the year has worn us down more than until recently we’ve realised, there is a better way.
If we wish to deepen our joy this Christmas, we need to dig deeply down into ourselves, get a little time out (alone, away from people, I mean) and think intently about the really significant things of life and death, which inspire gratitude notwithstanding the horrors we’ve faced. We think on the word, “Opportunity,” and pray about responding rather than simply reacting. We’d think on the things that open us up.
If we wish to deepen our joy this Christmas, we cannot afford to neglect any apparent need, even if that threatens to spoil the continuity of our peace. In doing this, in agreeing to walk hand in hand with God out into the floating depths, we give our Lord permission to broaden us as we’re deepened, for our joy can only be deepened when we have a reservoir deep enough for that filling. Of course, it’s scary. It goes with the terrain! We can take a certain comfort from the opportunity that life presents us with; for none of us willingly go deeper without being taken there by divine insistence. So, as we take the Lord’s hand, even though this is a tremendously difficult season, we wade out in faith that we’re held; no matter the terror, we’ll be safe.
Rarely is a season of hardship commensurate with joy, but there are glimpses that connect us with that indelible hope, and faith compels us to follow the vision of it. It is just as counterintuitive as it is true, that as we get beyond the cloister of safe depth and can no longer feel the earth beneath our feet, at such depth we do feel carried. Finally, with no scaffold to cling white-knuckled to, we recognise the ingenuity of trust.
If this Christmas is hard, maybe harder than ever, cling to the hope that your joy is being deepened; that the fruit of this season will be borne on the tree of life some months, even years away.
In the meantime, even as we suffer the indignities that come our way, we recognise that it’s not as we turn inward that we see Christ suffering in humanity, but it’s as we turn outward and see others in their suffering that we’re most inspired to continue in our own, and hence we come to notice that ours is lessened.
It’s in seasons of testing and hardship,
though we would hardly recognise it,
that our joy is being deepened.
Somehow suffering does connect us
with a deeper joy, eventually.

Photo by Jim Beaudoin on Unsplash

Friday, December 13, 2019

The narcissist who won’t take no for an answer

So many of my trips on trains end up being adventures. The latest one is no exception. But I’m still shocked at what took place, but the bemusing thing is, I shouldn’t be. 
I know the nature of this individual well enough by now. Yet, no matter how often even therapists encounter malevolent people, incredulous, jaw-dropping responses are predictable.
The event started like this, on a semi-crowded train: “Excuse me,” the man said in the ‘gentlest and politest’ of voices… no answer. “Excuse me,” he repeated, signalling to the attractive Indian woman sitting across the carriage. “Excuse me,” he said on the third occasion… with a ‘sincere curiosity’, he continued, “What are you studying?” (She was reading a book that looked either like a novel or a text of some kind.) It wasn’t just his appearance that seemed weird. It was the supreme confidence he waved with his words. It was the way he zeroed in on her, as if she were the only person on the face of the earth—in the FIRST MINUTE of them being in the same space.
Now, when a complete stranger asserts themselves ‘ever so sincerely and curiously’, with a charm that belies an absolute lack of relationship, on public transport no less, it rings alarm bells for me.
I was eight feet from him and eight feet from her if you drew a triangle. My way is to draw attention to the aggression I discern through eye contact—both with the woman on this occasion and the offending male. I don’t care how sincere this man thought he was, this woman’s life was in jeopardy, as we’ll soon discover. I noticed one other woman across from me pick up there was something very awry in this situation.
“I own [such-and-such] restaurant,” he continued, as he sought to woo her in his web—pick-up line after pick-up line. He was relentless in his asking questions, but ‘ever so sincere’ if you know what I mean (in other words, he was tenacious). When a complete stranger is tenacious toward us, that’s unsafe and a boundary violation. Would we even accept tenacity toward us from someone we know really well?
“Can I read the blurb [of the book],” he queried, as he motioned for her to pass it to him. “No!” I’m thinking. She resisted at this point. And then with a slight of hand, he says…
“Hey, how about we connect… do you do [social media]… hey, do you want to just pass me your phone?” At this point I’m thinking, “No, DON’T do that. Don’t give him ANYTHING.”
But she did.
He starts thumbing through her Facebook, takes about a full minute to find his own profile, and then sends himself a friend request from her! I’m thinking, “This is nuts!” (Little did I realise at the time, though, that this woman was handling this aggression the best way she could—without making a fuss. As a man, I often don’t get how many tricky situations women end up in just because they’re women.)
At about this point, I actually made lingering eye contact with the woman, and it was body language to say, “I’m noticing something unsafe here, are you okay?” Once that message was received by her, I turned to him and just stared. What do you think he did? Stared back, of course. With the same audacity of the rock spider to come onto the woman, he wouldn’t be threatened by me.
At this point the woman promptly left the train at the station we pulled up to. I prayed then that she would immediately delete the friend request send and then disinfect the phone.
There are narcissists who won’t take no for an answer. The boldest kind. They live and breathe entitlement, shout exploitation from the rooftops, and if you even make the merest suggestion they’re out of line, they’ll sick the thought police onto you.
The man I encountered on the train was overtly manipulating not only the woman, and all us fellow passengers, he was manipulating the situation, and his presence was deviantly controlling.
Women are often the commonest target of these kinds of patently evil people; persons who have made individuals of their choosing their target for whatever they want to achieve; a psychopathic intent.
When we’re in a situation—any social situation—where a person won’t take no for an answer, where we feel cornered, where we’re under pressure to do exactly what they want, we, at that moment, are dealing with a narcissist.
Pray to God for a quick escape if you’re fearful. If you have support around you (which is probably not the case, for like a public situation, who will stand for you?—and narcissists love getting their targets alone) defy them politely. And yet sometimes just to be aware of the manipulation is enough to get to safety.
There are some who will read this and see the obviousness in the predation of the man tenaciously chasing conversation with a woman who was trying to be polite and—get this—trying to protect the predator’s dignity. Others won’t see it at all and may even see this as me hating on men.
The behaviour is stark, and it is on trains and buses everywhere; in schools and at workplaces, in churches, and horrendously so in family homes.
One final word on narcissistic predation. This man had the poise of a psychopathic predator who will take no for an answer from no one. This person is a real person, and when the mood takes them, their conquest is their conquest. These are the men (and women) who rape and murder people. And they’re in our everyday life.
Be aware and be as safe as you can be.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

We don’t belong with those who don’t understand

For many years I never really understood what “birds of a feather flock together” really meant. I think it’s clear now, however.
When his disciples were tasked with spreading the mission of the Kingdom, Jesus told them to discern the houses they were invited into. If it were friendly to them, their peace could remain there. If it wasn’t, their peace was to return to them, and they would kick the dust of that place off their feet—those places weren’t for them.
Some of our biggest struggles occur when we mix with people who clearly aren’t on our wavelength. At its worst, we can feel very alone in this world, especially when someone we counted on and trusted proves again and again simply to not be on the same page.
They may not be able to understand, because they may not have our life experience. Perhaps it’s because their outlook on life is so vastly different, yet we’ve never picked up on this. It’s true that we should have a broad mix of friends, even some that ostensibly disagree with us, but birds of a feather flock together for a reason.
The friendships we choose that will deliver most support—both ways, because if it’s not both ways it’s not a friendship—will be those where there is implicit understanding.
Seek those friendships. It’s not wise to continue to try and influence a particular friend who may never agree with what we’re going through, because it’s not her or his experience. It’s not their philosophy for life.
Whatever is foreign to us, we struggle to understand.
We belong with persons and groups of people that GET us. It doesn’t mean we won’t benefit from being challenged by others, but if we know someone doesn’t comprehend our struggle, why would we seek them out for support?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Negotiating the journey to a home called, “Feelings”

It’s all too easy for people like me to say, “You must feel your feelings.” For many people, not just some, this can be a terrifying, confusing, and even an unknowable reality—at least it seems that way.
Feeling feelings can be a monumental challenge to those bearing trauma within their personal biosphere. Let’s never challenge such a concept, nor deny it, without respecting the concept.
The moment we think anyone’s claim to themselves is incredulous we call them a liar about the best thing they know; (that last word, “know,” being the operative word).
In other words, we CANNOT deny a person their perception over their own experience. Such a thing, though it is done with confoundingly horrific regularity—and never eviller than when done by professionals who should know better—is a despicable abuse that redoubles the trauma a person feels.
The road map trauma creates in the personal biosphere is an unknowable reality, fragmented in so many different ways, where the crumbs of our experience potentially disappeared long ago from the places we could have dropped them. Many people do not know their way back to feeling-for-healing places.
All we often have left over are the fragmentations of our reactionary feelings, which are often the evidences we have of the brokenness of our map.
That being what it is, we make use of the presence of all our feelings, as we accept each and every one for what they individually are, and for what they individually hold, as heartrending cues and clues, for the journey ahead.
Some feelings, terrifying as they are, and not always for known or even rational reasons, hold the key to a door to what we would call home, if only we knew what home looked and felt like. If only we knew we could trust it.
With any semblance of the concept of safety for that place called home, we’re motivated to walk there under our own will. But there are also blockers and frustrations along the way. It will take all the tenacity we have to embark, to continue, to arrive at the various milestones of the felt experience.
To find a trusted (and trustworthy) confidant for the journey would seem essential—more than one; a therapist, a peer group, friends no less(!!), a mentor or two, a pastor. For the trepidatious and sometimes lonely journey we require companions; some to rest with, others with which to walk the long stretches, and others again who will feed us precious morsels of spiritual food to revive us for each leg of the expedition.
Negotiating the journey to a home called, “Feelings,” can seem a gargantuan task. Into such a “night sea journey,” where the depths of death are at times entreated, we encounter feelings resembling experiences we’d prefer to deny. The more we trust ourselves to enter pain, the more we may discover the adventure disguised within it. The more we may descend as Christ did, the more as Christ rose, may we experience that grace.
Yet we don’t imagine how much courage it will take until we’re there, committed on the path!

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Sunday, December 8, 2019

How in-betweeners adapt to become over-comers

In-betweeners are caught between a life that was and a life that will be. Anyone who’s loved and lost knows it. It’s that moment when you can feel yourself thinking, “How on earth did I get HERE?” And, “when will this hell be over?”
I get chills every time I think of “The Lovely Bones,” which is as much a story of a girl stuck between this life and heaven as it is about her murder by a deviant psychopath. For me, though, I find this is a masterful metaphor for what being stuck in-between is like. You can see visions of what was and what will be, but neither is our reality.
We grieve the past and can’t wait for the promised future.
Anyone who is stuck in-between feels estranged to most of life. They find they no longer identify with ‘normal people’ because ‘normal people’ no longer identify with them. For those of us in the place, it’s as if life has passed us by.
One of the biggest traps of being in the in-between phase — which can last several years — is we get so adept at being there, we lose hope, because, quite frankly the ‘new normal’ stays lamentable; an enduring reminder of what was lost, of trauma gathered along the way, and what is still yet to be reconciled. We would hardly even admit it to ourselves, let alone to others, but we can get used to life being hopeless.
The exiles to Babylon were in that foreign land for two generations. The apostle Paul, I’m sure, was this kind of person, as we read his wrestle with being here versus departing to be with the Lord in Philippians 1. Jacob as he waited for Rachel. Indeed, there are so many biblical figures who for years were stuck in the in-between.
Over the past sixteen years of my life I’ve had countless salient moments where I felt so far from home as to wonder, “What on earth are you doing with my life, Lord — and why here?”
In being in-between, we feel marooned.
Yet, there is something that we do in the in-between that’s only available in the in-between. Jeremiah told the exiles that God wanted them to settle down in the foreign land. Through settling down and doing what they could do to promote prosperity in the foreign land, they presumably became a blessing to the Babylonians there. Not least were they given release to be at peace in a land and in a situation that must have felt hellish. But as they got busy living as if this was the new normal, they became the people of God in that strange land.
One of the key lessons in being in the in-between is adapting. God is so patient. We take far longer to adapt to our far-from-home environment, because we want it over and done with — “a return to normal, please” — as we struggle to accept there’s no way back, even as we watch life work out swimmingly for others.
Yet, when we adapt to being IN the in-between, we become overcomers.
Rather than bargaining with God about when we’ll be released from exile, God is wanting us to get used to our surrounds, and like the exiles to Babylon, to serve and be a blessing where we’re planted.
If being in the in-between and thriving there cannot kill our hope, nothing can.
Actually, unless we somehow experience a lengthy in-between time, we’re truly not tested enough to need to overcome.
If our lives are to be this way for some time to come, it is wise to settle, to take joy where we can, while we wait for a hope yet to be fulfilled.
Settling means sowing into lives that have come our way for fellowship, being kind with intention, and waking with a purposeful joy that determines, wherever we be, that “this is the day that the Lord has made”; to “let us be glad and rejoice in it.”

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash