I am in one of those “in-between” times…between jobs, between relationships, between big events, waiting the next new chapter of my life to begin. Waiting can be a challenging thing. As I’ve stated before, it makes me question my decisions and my abilities and I have to admit that recently I have wondered whether I’ve completely missed the opportunity that the Lord has provided me my being too “me”…
…and then a sermon was preached at my home church which made me feel very much at peace with where I am.
The lesson was on the passage Luke 17:11-19 which tells the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. I don’t know about you but I’m sure that I’ve heard this story told in many different ways through the years but the bottom line for the story typically is a reminder of being grateful for your blessings; remembering to say thank you for the gifts you are given. That’s certainly a viable message, but the speaker I recently heard took the lesson so much further I felt I needed to share my thoughts about it with you.
As you may remember, this passage opens with telling the reader where Jesus is. It’s a little piece of information that I have glossed over dozens of times, but that little piece of information is actually quite important. At this time Jesus is on the road between Samaria and Galilee – literally between a group of people that were considered by the Jewish people to be “the bad guys” – the Samarians – and the people considered to be “the good guys” – the Galileans. The lepers were there because they could not live in their home cities due to their illness. It must have been very distressing. Not only were they each afflicted with this horrible disease, but from the perspective of the men from Galilee, they were forced to live with someone they considered to be their enemy – the man from Samaria. Since there were nine Galileans, I can’t help but wonder how long it took for the “good guys” to allow the one Samaritan to be near them; how long the sole Samaritan had to live in isolation before he was accepted by the others. Regardless, there in that “in-between” place, the outcasts became unified to some degree and they created their own community which no longer cast the Samaritan as an enemy, but only as a person similarly afflicted.
When we are in times of “in-between” we often have the same thing occur. People that we may not have associated with before or not understood now become more a part of our circle if they, too, are in-between. When one sits in an unemployment office or goes to meet with state agencies for assistance, the differences between us melt away. We are all in the same desert waiting for the same drop of water to quench our need.
In this passage of scripture, that drop of water came from Jesus who healed all ten men with a single sentence. Like us,the solution for all of them didn’t recognize differences. Regardless of their status, station or affiliation, the solution was the same and yet their responses varied significantly.
The Galileans, seeing that they had been healed, now had the opportunity to return to the society they had been shut out of. They could return to their church and in so doing, be welcomed back into their community, their homes, their livelihoods. All could go back to the way it was – including no longer having a Samaritan as a member of their community. Things could go back to “normal”.
The Samaritan could easily have returned to his home like the others did; returned to whatever life he had before he became afflicted with leprosy, gone back to “normal”as well, but he chose not to. Why? Because being in the “in-between” changed him.
He was no longer the same man who entered that portion of desert and lived that existence “in-between”. He was changed and, more importantly, he wanted to remain changed.
Looking at my life now, I realize this is the same opportunity I have and we all have when we are in times of being “in-between”.
Times like these allow us a chance to re-examine our own beliefs and thoughts and decide if they are ideals we wish to hold fast to or change. If we see that there are changes we need to make or wish to make to our lives, this in-between time allows us to make those changes and choose a new direction; to choose a path that is more in line with where we see the Lord is calling us to go just as the Samaritan man did.
Here’s the thing.
Whether we realize it or not, times of being “in-between” change us just like both the Galileans and the Samaritans were changed. They had to learn to live near one another, to accept the destruction of their bodies, to find ways to survive in a place far from their homes and families and though our in-between looks quite difference, we also have to change. We have to learn to live with the new reality of our lives for however long that new reality exists – a new reality that may include people we previously wouldn’t have associated with or jobs we wouldn’t have considered satisfactory.
But we also have the opportunity to learn to experience new blessings and mercies we would not have had in our life before the “in-between”. We have the opportunity to find the “there” there – to find joy, peace and the gifts that God provides us each and every day in places we previously didn’t know existed let alone ever thought we would find ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong. Being “in-between”is challenging. I makes us see things we don’t want to see in ourselves and perhaps in others and also makes us change in ways we may not want to change.
We have to remember that God waits with us there just as He walked that road between Samaria and Galilee. He provides the same blessings to all who come near. One of the most significant blessings He provides is the wisdom of those who have been there and gotten to the other side. Our job is not only seeing the blessing of the in-between times and their resolutions, but also being grateful for the presence of these times in our lives and learning from those who are willing to share their journeys with us.
If you’re “in-between”, as I am, be blessed by its presence. If you have learned new things about yourself or your calling during such times, I would love to hear about it. If you have survived the “in-between” and wish to share your experiences, please do!