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Valuing Life Lived “In-Between”

Much of life is lived in the “in-betweens.” We’re in-between jobs, in-between vacations, in-between marriages, in-between weekends, in-between churches, in-between our children’s birth and sending them off to college, in-between houses, or in-between retirement and our heavenly home.

We have milestones along the way, such as high school or college graduations, taking that new job, marriage, having children, buying a new house, and retirement. We have beginnings and endings, starting points, and those times when the job is done. As the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

The Preacher highlights moments within time as ends of a spectrum, and Scripture as well as our human experience confirms the wisdom of knowing these seasons of life. My question is: How do we live our lives in-between those seasons? How do we live our lives when we’re not starting something new or drawing something to a close? How do we find joy, balance, margin, and growth when we’re not planting or harvesting, but we’re waiting on the plants to grow? How do we live life when we’re not breaking things down or building them up, or we’re not weeping or laughing? We’re simply, in-between?

Too often, I miss out on the richness of life in the “in-betweens,” because I’m so focused on what is yet to come or so bothered by what has just happened. I replay the past over and over again in my head, or I produce a full-length production in my mind of what hasn’t even happened yet!

Just as we need to value the differing seasons and the ends of the seasonal spectrum, we also need to value the majority of life which is lived in-between. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to do just that.

First, celebrate beginnings and milestones accomplished, but live life in the present. It’s one thing to celebrate the birth of a child, but it’s another thing to wish the child remained a baby. It’s one thing to celebrate a new job, but it’s another thing to never move beyond the celebration into the actual fulfillment of meaningful labor. The same principle applies to us spiritually. We celebrate baptisms, but do we have a plan for spiritual growth beyond the “watery grave”? Every day is a new opportunity for living life in-between our first resurrection (salvation) and our second resurrection (heaven). If you fail to have a plan for how you live your life, you are planning to fail. Peter writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). This is a description of living life in the in-between.

Second, learn from the past, mourn in seasons of grief, but join God in the now. God is not a God of the past or the future. He is the great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). God is not confined to the measurement of time as though He were limited by the boundaries of human existence. God is always in the present, He redeems the past, and He creates the future. God encouraged the Israelites in a season of transition to “remember not the former things; nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).

In the “in-betweens” of your life, will you do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)? Will you not spend your time always waiting for the next great vacation, new job, or anything else that is supposedly just around the bend promising you happiness? Likewise, will you not spend your time living in the past, wishing for things that are no more, but join God in the now as He re-creates, does new things, and invites us to join Him in the daily journey of the in-between? My prayer is that we will find joy in the mundane and use those in-between moments of life to be shaped and forged into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Resting in the Trustworthiness of God

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a public health epidemic. An estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. The problem is that most people aren’t getting enough. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, nearly 30% of adults reported an average of less than 6 hours of sleep per day in 2005-2007. In 2009, only 31% of high school students reported getting at least 8 hours of sleep on an average school night.

And what are the causes of our sleepless nights? One study indicates that there are numerous societal and personal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, job or school related stress, personal or family issues, and physical or mental illnesses. Many of us, myself included, have experienced sleepless nights, and the more we try to make ourselves go to sleep, the more we feel the pressure of our insomnia.

I’ve experienced the daily fatigue brought on by those restless nights, and thus I’ll try almost anything to nod off to sleep: prayer, reading scripture, listening to soft music. I even count sheep! I recognize that for some, insomnia is a serious, medical issue. If that’s the case for you, I hope you seek professional advice from a health-care expert.

For others, such as myself, however, a sleepless night is directly tied to the pressures and demands of the day. And herein lies my dilemma: Am I really trusting the Lord? Am I relying on my own strength rather than the strength of the Holy Spirit? Am I turning my problems and stressors over to Jesus? If I am, then why do I lie awake at night worrying about them?

I know the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). I believe the Scripture when it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

The problem is not in my knowledge but in my application. Trust is not a one-time deal, as though you can say, “I trust you,” and then move on to something else. Trust is a process based in relationship and the acknowledgment that the person in whom you trust is trustworthy. If we truly believe that God is the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives, then we can walk in the confidence of His trustworthiness. In layman’s terms: God’s got this. In God’s terms: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

When we trust that God is who He said He is, that God will do what He said He will do, then we can be who He calls us to be, and we can sleep with the full assurance that He is in control…and we’re not.

If you struggle with sleepless nights, as I do from time to time, I encourage you to memorize the following verses, and then recite them in your mind as part of your bedtime routine: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me…. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 3:5; 4:8). “For God grants sleep to those He loves” (Psalm 127:2). If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24).

Tonight, I pray your sleep will be sweet, your mind, body and soul will be refreshed, and you will rest in the trustworthiness of God.

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