Waiting can be challenging, whether it’s in a line at the DMV, in an airport terminal, or for the next season of your favorite show to release on Netflix.
The hardest seasons of waiting often come after an ending in life, and there is not yet a new beginning to move into. The in-between is a season of unexpected and unintentional pause as we live in the tension what was and not yet what will be.
Learning to live in this tension may be our greatest struggle and our greatest opportunity to grow.Read More
I will meditate on Psalm 46:10 this week.
I will do the next best thing I can to continue moving forward.
I will mark the milestones of God’s faithfulness as a remembrance of His grace to me.
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It’s been said that “The only person who likes change is a baby with a diaper. “
Many of us might relate to that … I did not do change easily for most of my life
Last week we began our series on TRANSITIONS with the recognition that …
Life is a constant state of change and change often leads to transition
Life happens whether you like it or not, and transitions in life are inevitable; sometimes we choose them, other times they choose us. Either way, they always involve leaving something in the past and entering a new normal.
We saw that the starting point for transitions is an ending that we must make.
Transitions begin with an ending, end with a beginning and have a space in-between
Why this is important … When we mistake transition simply for change, we miss the inner, deeper transformation and we are left reliving and/or repeating the past.
Many of you have been recognizing and acknowledging endings this last week, working through the “feels” and the grief
There are so many resources to help guide you through the grief of endings, and I encourage you to reach out and engage with those resources
Grief messages online
On the other side of an ending is the second stage of transition, that space in-between what was and what isn’t yet.
Who remembers this sound? (Play dialup sound)
dial up modem!
would tie up your phone line
waiting 30mins for a pdf to download?!
Everyone 25 and under is like “what are you talking about?”
That’s often how the space In-Between feels …
Waiting … The waiting can seem like nothing is happening… time is at a standstill … you’re at a standstill!
That’s because endings and beginnings are bracketed by events, they are moments in time, joyous or painful
But the space In-Between is more like a gap in life.
Jeff Goin, a best seller author … (The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing)
“Life is waiting. Not just waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting to renew your driver’s license but waiting to love and commit and find the work you were meant to do. Our lives are full of inconvenient setbacks, not due to some great cosmic mistake but because of some divine purpose we don’t comprehend. In the waiting, we become.”
But we’ve become an “instant gratification” society, and the trouble is, most transitions happens gradually.
How many of you are familiar with liminal spaces?
The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold.
The idea of liminality was introduced into the field of anthropology in 1909 by Arnold Van Gennep.
He described the rites of passage, such as coming of age rituals and marriage, as having the following three-part structure:
Sound kind of familiar?
liminal period (space in-between)
re-assimilation (beginning) …TRANSITIONS!
The concept of liminality was explored fully in the second half of the 20th century.
In Liminality and Communitas, Victor Turner began by defining liminal individuals as “neither here nor there; they are between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremony.”
Liminal space is also used in architecture
The characteristics that define liminal space include layering, dissolution, blurring, and ambiguity and have the ability to transform the occupant of that space as they move through it. The experience of liminal space poses a discontinuity and leads the occupant to question their surroundings, thus leading to heightened awareness of the space as a transformative threshold between distinct spaces.
Examples of liminal spaces.
Stairwells and Elevators
Stairwells and elevators are quite clearly in-between spaces or thresholds. Their purpose is to get you from one place to another, and that is why lingering in an empty stairwell or elevator can feel a bit creepy… for you and for others!
Parking Lots … not usually the final destination, unless you don’t make it out of the tailgate party
How many of us have experienced long layovers? Anyone ever been stranded in a terminal?
There is nothing to do! They’re not designed for entertainment or rest
Terminals at airports are places that act only as a waiting space. You’re leaving where you are, heading to an eventual new location.
Liminal space is the space In-Between.
A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘what’s next.’ It is a place of transition, of waiting.
ILLUS: I mentioned last week one of my endings was losing a job of nearly 20 years … looking for work
time in sales, one foot in, one foot out waiting for what was next
felt God speak to me that He wouldn’t lead me into the next season until I embraced the season I was in … I referred to it as my wandering season
lessons to be learned, work He need to do in my life, changes that needed to happen
Often, when we are in liminal spaces, we have the feeling of just being on the verge of something but it’s just beyond our reach
Last week we saw the ENDINGS for Naomi and Ruth, 10 years of loss and now they return to Naomi’s home, Bethlehem unsure of what’s next, but certain of what’s not anymore.
We saw the beginnings of the space In-Between, that she and Ruth were moving into from the ENDINGS of their chapter one.
Ruth 1:16-18 16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”
Contrasts are always important in Scripture. The word but is a clue that a change of direction is coming.
A dramatic contrast marking a change in direction … leading straight into the space In-Between
“Where you go I will go…”
Ruth’s is an uncertain future in an unknown land where she knew one person, enjoyed few legal rights, and, given the traditional Moabite-Israelite rivalry, faced almost certain ethnic prejudice.
Jews despised Moabites and saw them in the same category as dogs, a misfit, an outcast
Whatever Ruth’s knowledge of God was, she willingly left family, familiar surroundings, and her religious traditions to lean into a trust in God
It’s in the space In-Between that we learn to … Trust an unknown future to a knowing God
Here’s a big spiritual word you can impress your friends with … or scare the
An attribute of God … Omniscience … the capacity to know everything
God is all-knowing; that He encompasses all knowledge of the past, present, and future.
There is no event in the past, present, or future that takes Him by surprise.
To be known by God, then, is to be valued and loved.
The fact that God knows the future does not imply that humans somehow lose freedom of choice. And just because God knows that something will happen, does not mean that He causes it
We see the omniscience of God throughout the Bible
The Psalmist tells us He knows the number of stars and calls them by name
Jesus tells us that even the hairs of our head are numbered
Joseph understood the omniscience of God when he told his brothers that “…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
The prophets speaking of future events as God had revealed to them
Jesus predicting His own death and resurrection
In 2006 I was in Kenya, Africa (a beautiful country) working with an orphanage that rescued street kids
At the end of the trip we had scheduled a two-day safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve
About a six-hour trip … most of which was absent of any roads
Describe the drive
I had reached a point as we’re navigating around trees in the middle of nowhere that I was convinced our driver had no idea where we were, and I was going to be responsible for the disappearance of 10 teenagers
I didn’t trust HE KNEW where we were headed
In the uncertainty of the space In-Between, Trust an unknown future to a knowing God
Psalm 37:3 NKJV “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”
Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
Easy to read, to say, can be difficult to embrace, especially in the space In-Between
(Say it and drop off a word each time)
we tend to view this verse to mean rest or relax in who God is … it does
but it’s more of a wakeup call to be in awe of who God is
written in a time of trouble … the context gives it the idea of ‘snap out of it,’ ‘wake up,’ ‘stop fearing’—acknowledge who your God is
We can trust Him because of who He is, and in His knowledge of our future
Ruth 2:1-7 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek (el·ē·meh’·lek), whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek (el·ē·meh’·lek). Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered. Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
Two widows, no visible means of support …
Endings leave us confused, disoriented, paralyzed … and then we face the unknown and uncertainty of the future
I went to Bible college and I would watch as students approached graduation and they would become “spiritually” paralyzed
I can’t move until I hear from God … translated, I have no idea what to do next!
When we enter the space In-Between, often we’re left not knowing what to do next … and what we can’t do is nothing
When you don’t know what to do next, do the next best thing
I imagine that both Naomi and Ruth had similar thoughts …
Is this what life has to offer from now on?
common question of the space In-Between
For many it’s “will life always be a struggle to survive, to forget, to recover from, to overcome, to get ahead…”
For Ruth, the thought must have been, “Well, we need to eat…” so she went out …
An immigrant in a foreign land out in the fields … sounds familiar …
“… she went out, entered a field … As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz…”, a relative of her deceased father-in-law
As luck would have it … you would not believe the coincidence … what are the chance?!
She just picked a field to work in, a random choice. From a mere human perspective, it happens by chance. But there was nothing random about Ruth’s selection of this field.
I don’t believe God works in coincidences …
The understatement highlights God’s involvement and care in our lives
Now, is that saying sit back and wait for God to drop stuff in our laps? NO WAY!
Ruth did the next best thing she knew to do, and God met her there
God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for passive living. God’s sovereignty runs hand-in-hand with our responsibility. We need to take steps of faith, of obedience.
Ruth does this … instead of sitting on her hands and waiting, she goes to work in the fields.
When you don’t know what to do next, do the next best thing
2:15-17 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach (stop) her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
God put her in the very place that would end up providing for her and Naomi
imagine a line of reapers advancing in a grain field. Obviously, they had to stay at a certain distance from each other while swinging their sickles. So, it was unavoidable that some grain stalks would be left standing and that some spikelets would fall on the ground.
gleaners didn’t need tools, nor needed special skills. They would simply walk in the fields, equipped with nothing more than their hands and a bag, collecting what they found on the ground.
The Israelites had been instructed to leave the margins of the field and anything that fell to the ground untouched, and they were to harvest the field just once.
Ruth’s gathered an ephah (ā·fä’) of grain.
A hard day’s work under the hot Palestinian sun frequently netted only a small amount of grain.
An ephah (ā·fä’) is estimated somewhere between 20 and 40 pounds
enough to sustain the two widows for up to ten days
Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Hardship is not hopelessness … Our endurance opens us to God’s faithfulness
The space In-Between can, and will appear desolate and desperate … and that’s where God shines into
Matthew records Jesus’ words … don’t worry about your life
SO MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE for most
“Are you not much more valuable…” … do you not realize how much God cares for and loves you?
When we feel helpless, hopeless, frustrated, at a loss, uncertain in the space In-Between … remember this … God never is and our endurance opens us to God’s faithfulness
Ruth’s and Naomi’s story begins to sound somewhat familiar to another, found earlier in the history of the Israelites
Moses is leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt … a quick recap …
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years.
God sends Moses back to Egypt and creates an exhibition of signs and wonders to convince Pharaoh to set His people free… think plagues, death, and destruction. (Exodus 7:14-12:32).
Finally, it seemed as if Pharaoh relented and told Moses to take his people and go.
He soon rethinks that decision, but when his armies pursue God’s people, they are destroyed in the Red Sea.
If you’ve seen Disney’s Prince of Egypt, you know what I’m talking about
They were slaves, but now they are free, headed to a promised land overflowing with milk and honey
The laws of geometry teach us that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
That’s usually not how a journey in the space In-Between goes
A journey that should have taken days takes decades
Having left Egypt (ending), they didn’t trust God as they entered the space In-Between
It’s referred to as the wilderness journey
You’ve brought us out here to die
We’d rather be back in what was
that’s what the In-Between can feel like … a wilderness
The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space—an in-between place where ordinary life is seemingly suspended, or upended!
Through the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness, we learn that while the wilderness is a place of danger, temptation and chaos, it is also a place for solitude, nourishment, and revelation from God.
God came to them in the wilderness, provided for them, spoke to them, and formed a covenant with them.
The wilderness is a context for the transformation for God’s people.
God is working a plan, but that plan will rarely play itself out like we think it’s going to.
It would make sense that His plan for us has some variance from our plan for us. What we can trust in, though, is that the plan is good. We need to be oriented around that. Our lives need to have a deep understanding that is true so that when some wave crashes over the top of us we’re not thinking, “God hates me. This is punishment for what I’ve done in my life.”
We won’t do that, but we’ll run to him and trust him.
Near the end of their 40 years wandering through the wilderness, we read this …
Joshua 3:1-4 (NASB) Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed. At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it…that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”
There are two groups right now; one that’s offended at what I just said and another that’s giggling
To the first, it’s in the Bible so settle down … to the second, grow up …
One morning in my In-Between a few years ago I read this and started laughing … called my parents (share the story)
“…go after it…” referring to the ark of the covenant
To the Israelites, the ark symbolized the presence of God.
In that ark were the following items
The two tablets of the ten commandments.
The ten commandments show us our need for a Savior, our inability to live up to perfection
A preserved pot of manna
God is one who can and did provide
Aaron’s budding rod
reminded the people that God is a miracle-working God.
Joshua is telling the people when they see God leading them to GO AFTER IT!
Follow Him, pursue Him, chase Him. It’s more than just direction, it’s desire … GO AFTER IT!
They haven’t gone this way before, they’re unsure, afraid, disoriented, but they know the God who goes before them.
That’s what we must do if we’re to make it through the unknown territory of the space In-Between: resolve to keep our spiritual eyes and focus on Jesus, our hope and trust in Him.
Now, I won’t just leave you there. I want to give you 5
Lean into God
If you can embrace the tension of the liminal space, the wilderness, the In-Between, if you can appreciate the process of the space and allow God’s Spirit to be at the center, this space can be a place of new experiences and incredible grace. It can be a space which gives God time to partner with you in helping you become your best self, where He works with you to deal with the stuff that damages you and hurts others. It can be the place where He teaches you something new and where he can unearth in you an undiscovered gift.
anxiety rises and motivation falls.
Show the courage not to retreat back to what was, be patient not to jump into what you think ought to be. Be in the liminal space. Trust that you are on the threshold and you’re not alone; God is there with you.
Find what continuity you can
things that CAN stay the same
Look for the familiar in the midst of the unfamiliar
Mark milestones along the way
These are markers of God’s faithfulness that you can look back on to encourage forward momentum
Be patient with the process and yourself
It’s the space In-Between where life’s greatest transformation happens; the stuff that God uses to shape us often lies in this very space.
Let’s pray …