The In-Between Time

I at-work-cookie-monsteram 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 big_thumblittle 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 dc06ffcce360f8076ab4757eab5e08f9may 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 i-am-what-i-choose-to-becomeexistence “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.

60c413fef21aeca2b0a68be83af5df2dBut 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!

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Chasing A Mirage

b207783bd5de238eab1919afb1e12321Have you ever felt like the road you were on suddenly fell off the map? Like Google Maps suddenly updated and now the route you thought was going to lead you where you needed and wanted to go no longer exists?

I have to admit I have felt that way a lot over the last several years.

At nearly 50, I have often struggled to find my place – my place in the workplace, my place in my personal life, my place with my gifts and talents.

Don’t get me wrong – I have had some very exciting and fulfilling times in my life, but at the moment I feel a little like I’m wandering in the desert.

I don’t know about you, but I just thought  at some point it would get easier. After all, I have already made it through a significant number of challenges.

Putting aside my childhood and the struggles there, I have been through 2 divorces, the suicide of a stepson, years of being sick and having surgery after surgery, and loss – or perhaps a complete lack – of financial stability.

About 4 years ago, I had finally landed a decent paying job that allowed me to use my creativity and skills, had found some success in local theater groups, and felt ready to return home to Colorado to spend quality time with family and reestablish my community there.

god-laughs-at-your-plansI’m pretty sure I have heard God laughing at my plan many, many times over the last few years.

First, the job I moved with fell apart…as have 2 successive positions….

…and several of the family members i had  moved back to reconnect with – 0r, in some cases, begin a relationship with –  moved out-of-state…

…and some promising acting work disappeared like ashes in the wind.

Now, here I am almost 50 years old with not a lot to hold up to the world around me to say this is what I have accomplished with my life – isn’t it great?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that it isn’t the amount of stuff one has, the size of the bank account or the plaques on the wall that determine a successful life. I have had many successes thus far. I have traveled, acted, sung, and met some amazing people who have made an indelible mark on my life. I have had good jobs, grown in my faith, and become a more secure individual…

..and yet, here I sit, feeling as though I am standing in the middle of a desert chasing mirages of what my life is supposed to be only to find I am chasing after shifting sands, never to reach the destination I thought was in front of me.

What makes this even more challenging is that as a Christian, both the Christian and non-Christian communities often look at my life and others like it and express thoughts that I am not “doing” Christianity right. If I were a more faithful Christian woman, would I not have a good man beside  me? Would I not feel more settled and satisfied? Would I not be harvesting the “fruit” of my well-lived Christian life?

To those people, I have to kindly say absolutely not.0_0_0_0_322_654_csupload_57205222

The Bible is filled with passages about the struggles we as humans will face. There is not any “ifs” about it. Life will be hard regardless of your faith.

Ok – well what about those passages that tell me I should be rejoicing in my struggles? That I should be perfectly content in its imperfection. Aren’t we as Christians called to trust in the Lord always and not be anxious about anything?

Yes. We are. But the truth of the matter is that I – like all of you – am human and while these are great goals to reach for, they are not always attainable on a consistent basis.

I, for one, am anxious!

I am anxious about where my next paycheck is going to come from, whether or not I will have the money I need to make rent, and what the next few months of my life are going to look like. I am anxious about the thought of living the rest of my life alone and knowing that the struggle is likely only going to continue or get worse, not better. And I am anxious about the thought that maybe I missed a turn I was supposed to take; a route that was marked for me that I missed or was too fearful or arrogant to take and now it is lost to me.

And I do not count all of this joy. While there are joyful aspects of where my life is now, I am tired of the struggle.

I ache to be using the gifts and talents I have to be making my way through this life; getting paid to do what I love and have a talent for rather than having to make do with a “day job” and not truly live.

I yearn to be writing for a living, able to use my words to tell stories people long to read and receive intellectual and emotional nourishment from and receiving some monetary accommodation for this.

I long to be able to act and sing and not actually have to sacrifice acting and singing opportunities because the 9 to 5 grind that I endure in order to pay the bills and make ends meet makes it nearly impossible to allow these things to be a part of life.

I crave a connection to another human being that is not superficial but rather emotionally, spiritually and physically fulfilling; to have another person in my life that can walk with me in the ebbs and flows of life and come out the other side still willing to walk some more.

But here’s the thing.

Even with all the feelings of sadness and the chasm of uncertainty I currently feel, I know that I am blessed.

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I am blessed because I know that my God is big enough to hear my pain and to help me carry it. He is not angry with me because I am not cheerful about my struggles nor is he going to smite me because I fail to uphold this image of what a “true Christian” is.

Life is hard. There are struggles – some big and some small – that we all must face during our time here on this earth. I know that the struggles I am having today are not nearly as challenging as some you may be facing. They are certainly not the hardest struggles I’ve had in my life, but they are significant enough for me to want it to end – like, now would be great.

Much as I wish God would shoot me a text telling me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to happen. I, like all of you, have to wait. I have to continue to work at finding a new job so I know I can pay my rent and wait for a time when those horrendous “thanks, but no thanks” emails are replaced by a “we want YOU” email.

cc78da55504da0d9a7026fe699f13b7eI have to wait to hear the answers to my prayers that are spoken with my heart and my mouth on a daily (or hourly) basis and  I have to remember to keep my spirit ready for the answers God sends because they are not often the answers I hope they would be.

And I have to keep chasing that dream that is in front of me which may or may not end up being a mirage because to stop following it is to give up – and I refuse to give up.

After all, God doesn’t give up on me. What right do I have to give up on myself?

So here I am, chasing mirages. If you are here in the desert with me, send up a white flag
and maybe we can walk a little bit of this together.