The In-Between

Directions are not my deal.  We all have our gifts and finding my way around is not mine.  I’m okay with it at this point – I’ve learned to adapt.  I’ve figured out how to work with my weaknesses and still get around.  It does make it more interesting, though.  I move through my GPS.  She isn’t always right.  Sometimes, there is a road that is new or she is a block off.  But at least she gets me close.  I only have a problem when she starts speaking in a language I don’t quite understand.  In direction language, it goes like this – head South on this road.  Head what?  South?  Where is that – and if i knew that much, I wouldn’t need her.  So I end up going a direction to see if she validates my move or if she begins recalculating.  When she recalculates, that means I’ve done it wrong and now she has to try and figure it out again.  I’m okay with all of this.  I recognize what I am missing and it is fine.

I feel sometimes like God directs me this way, too.  He gives me direction, but it is through some language I do not understand – like go East.  I often find myself wandering around hoping i have taken the right turn and checking back in to see if he needs to recalculate.  More often, I find myself stopped along the side of the road thinking…this cannot be right…but not knowing where to go from here.  Its like finally achieving my Doctor of Ministry degree and then leaving congregational ministry for a season.  And that’s where i find myself.

I don’t know about you, but it is an unsettling place to be – the in between.  It is a bit unnerving.  I know God is still with me.  I don’t feel out of place.  I simply feel as though the in between space is where i reside for now.  And it can make me feel…well, broken.  Have you ever felt broken?  Not that a part of you is broken, but that your direction, your place, your purpose is off.  I call it the in between space – the place where you wander but not aimlessly.  God’s presence is there but it is as if everything he says comes through a muffled, bad connection.  The in between space can be rough, but it can also be a chance to explore, to breathe, and to reorient.  

When I graduated from McAfee School of Theology, we were unable to get together.  So they mailed us our gifts.  We received an absolutely beautiful pitcher – a perfect symbol of service, of being poured out, of being an instrument of love.  I excitedly opened mine only to find out it was broke.  It is still beautiful.  I considered trying to piece it back together.  I contacted the school and they, of course, sent me a new one.  But I fell in love with this one.  It had so much to say.  It was a reminder – broken things are still quite beautiful.  Broken things are still useful.  And broken things still can be of service.  

The in between space is okay, broken things are still valuable, and God is still with us.  So where do we go when we find ourselves living in these places, feeling a little beat up, not knowing where to go next and simply broken?  We go back to the foundation, the unshakable core that still holds us together.  We hear the words of Jesus as he gives us foundational words to build from.  We rise from the rubble knowing God is not done with us yet.  And this is where i come back to.  

Matthew 22:34-40, “34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus tells us these are the most important – this is the foundation everything else is built upon.  This is the key, the place we land when all else is in chaos.  This is the deal.  Jesus is, of course, echoing what has been taught since the very beginning.  He is teaching what will always be important.  He is giving clear direction – no North or South stuff.  He is helping those who really don’t care and those who are ultimately curious.  Jesus is making it precise, even in the in between, broken spaces – love.  Love God, love others.  

Where we are right now – this is the time and this is the space when love speaks the loudest.  There are voices yelling every day.  There are arguments about most anything.  There is fighting.  There are wars.  There are lines divided and angry words being spoken.  As Christians, though, this is the time to love.  I’m not talking about a sappy, happy ending movie type of love.  I’m talking about a deep in the trenches, stepping into the unknown, sacrificial type of love.  

Jesus teaches the most important is to love God with your everything – from your very core, with all your being.  Love God with it all.  And take that love and offer it to your neighbors, your friends, even your enemies.  This love is just hard, but it is also the love that we have been given – the love we were offered when we were unlovable.  This is the time to live in this love.  This is the time to share this with those around.  This is the time to stand out – not for our opinions, not for our judgment, but for the way that we love.  There are plenty of opinions out there.  There is more than enough backbiting, name calling, hate filled words being spread.  There isn’t enough of the love of God.

The love of God doesn’t look like beating someone down with the Bible or quoting every verse we know.  It doesn’t look like judging or deciding who is in or out.  One of the most divisive thoughts we can have as followers of Christ is the ‘us’ verses ‘them’ idea.  We are Christians, they are not.  We are worthy, they are not.  We have the answers, they are wrong.  We are on the right side, they are out.  We begin to look like an exclusive club rather than a group of people following Jesus, spreading love.  We begin to decide who is in and who is out.  And this isn’t for us to decide.  Jesus didn’t even give us the option of deciding who to love.  He said love God and love others.  That’s it.  And that’s what makes the difference.  That’s the key.  

This isn’t the love that sits around the campfire singing Kumbaya.  This is the deep in the trenches, settling in the in between spaces, feeling our brokenness and still living in love.  Followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to show up when all else is huddled in corners holding fast to opinions and judgments.  This is the time to speak to the brokenness, knowing God can still use the broken in a mighty way.  This is the time to sit in the in between spaces and allow God to heal and reignite.  This is the time to show peace in the midst of utter chaos.  This is the time to live – truly live – with a fire to love God and love others.  I pray God allows us the privilege of doing just that – to love.  And may we love like him.

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