Living In Between, Part I

It’s a mess; that’s what it is.

It’s this awkward time when my daughter isn’t quite size 7, but not really still a 6x either.  Triple that for all three of my girls and imagine the wardrobe fallout.

They’re just in between.

The dresses are too short, the sleeves on the shirts ride up on their arms, but the next size of pants fit like clown clothes.

So, there’s this season where their wardrobe is a hodgepodge of sizes, a paradise for Goldilocks.  Some too small.  Some too big.  And hopefully enough that are “just right.”

And there are the disagreements about what fits and what doesn’t.  They swim into bulky dresses and shirts that slip off their thin shoulders just so they can wear something new.

Then these same girls cram themselves into shirts that crawl up above their belly button and pants that now look like capris because they don’t want to give up their favorite outfit.

It’s all about transition.  It’s a time of in-betweeness.  It’s uncomfortable.  Messy.  Awkward.  Ill-fitting.

It’s life.

So often we live in the in-between.
We’re preparing for a ministry we haven’t yet started.
We’re moving from job to job, home to home, ministry to ministry.
Our children somehow change from babies to toddlers to little kids to big kids to teens to adults and we can’t say when it happened.
We’re saying goodbye, but haven’t found a place to say hello.

Our transition pitfalls are the same as they are for my daughters and their fashion crises.

We want to leap ahead before we’re ready and end up tripping all over ourselves.

Or, we cram ourselves into comfortable situations that are now stretched to the max and busting the seams.  We resist change.  We linger in the past.  We’re trapped by shame or even nostalgia and we’ll miss out on the new in order to remain in the known.

Scripture is strangely silent about many transition times.

Take Paul.  After his dramatic conversion, he spent time learning how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, putting aside his old life as a persecutor, but not yet leading the church or serving as a missionary to the Gentiles.

He was in between.

In Galatians, Paul tells us, “I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.   Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen day” (Galatians 1:17-18). 

We can’t tell how long his training for ministry lasted.  He spent time alone in Arabia, away from the Jerusalem church.  Then he stayed in Damascus for three years.  Finally, he traveled to Jerusalem where he hung out with Peter for 15 days (Cephas).

So often we forget this time in Paul’s life.  We see him converted and then we see him as a radical missionary enduring shipwrecks and stonings and imprisonment. At least, that’s how it went on the flannel boards in our Sunday School classes all those years ago.

But his was no overnight preparation for ministry.  It took years of radical change for Saul to become Paul.

Surely Paul could have met Jesus on the road to Damascus, had his eyesight restored, and then high-tailed it to Jerusalem to present himself to James and the rest of the church leaders.  He could have declared, “Send me in, Coach!”

Yet, he would have been immature: full of enthusiasm, but little spiritual maturity.  He probably would have scared the Christians into hiding.  They likely thought he was faking his conversion in order to infiltrate the church and kill them all.

Paul also didn’t have a heart for the Gentiles yet.  Maybe that happened in Arabia when he realized that not many people there had even heard of Jesus Christ—and if Paul needed a Savior, well maybe they did, too.

Most of the time between Jesus’ birth and His public ministry is a blank also. We know He lived in Egypt as a child, but we know nothing about His time there.

Scripture only tells us about one event in Jesus’ childhood, when his parents left him during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he was 12 years old.  Traveling as a large group, they just assumed he was with others in their entourage.

Can’t you just hear his parents when they discovered his absence? “I thought he was with you!”  “Well, I thought he was with you!”

Jesus’ response to His parents when they found Him teaches us what to do when we’re in the in-between times of life.

  • He told his parents, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).  We need to be where God is.  Jesus wasn’t performing miracles or teaching on hillsides yet.  That was for the future.  Likewise, we can’t run ahead of God or lag behind His timing.  We need to be obedient to His plan for us right now.
  • During his transition time, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52).  Soak up everything you can learn while you wait.  Don’t twiddle your thumbs and assume this time is pointless. Dig deep in is Word.  Learn from others.  Wear your knees out in prayer.  Be a receptive student.
  • Be sensitive to others: Transition times aren’t just hard for us; they are difficult for others, too.  Some people won’t understand when you take a break from ministry.  Others may not support you in something new.  Some people will try to hold you back.  Others will push and nudge you ahead of God’s timing. After His parents found Him in the temple, Jesus “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).  Obey God’s timing, but be gracious always and submissive to your leadership when possible.

In the in-between times, we look to God as our guide, we enjoy His presence and remain contented in His plan for us, just like the Psalmist wrote “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King