Lost In the “In-Between”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  –Jeremiah 29:11

Have you ever found yourself at a place in life where you are stuck in transition? Maybe you are there now. In between two phases of life: the time between college graduation and the start of a career–the time between two jobs after a layoff–the time between relationships–the time between two decisions. No matter the circumstance, it’s a state of “in-between”, an adjustment period, that we often find ourselves resting in.  A movement away from the familiar and the known–a movement into change and uncertainty.  While the lucky handful can move through these transitions quickly, we often find that this phase is the toughest, most confusing time.  Not only is there uncertainty moving forward, but there is also a lack of passion and drive.  When you’re not sure which direction the “light at the end of the tunnel” is coming from, how do you know which way to look?

Lately, this “phase” of in-between has been a recurring theme amongst so many of my friends, as well as amongst some of the individuals I disciple.  And while everyone’s individual scenarios are different and unique, the general theme of discontent has remained constant. In listening to each of them share their hearts, I began to realize a few key things: #1. We are all so human. No matter where we are in our walks as believers, we are all so deeply human–struggling with the same emotions, insecurities, conflicts, and self-serving mentalities. #2. As humans, it is so easy to get tripped up and tangled in these mentalities.  It is our nature to allow ourselves to become fixated–whether it be on positive triggers or negative triggers.  We are creatures of habit. #3. Thank goodness we serve a fantastic King that has immeasurable patience and loves us so passionately. Because… #4. So many of us get lost in the “in-between”. (Myself definitely included!)

As I prayed and prayed over the matter, I dug into the Word and was immediately humbled by such a familiar verse.  A verse that we often list off, but may not fully understand at times.  As we’ve discussed before, the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God.  In every circumstance, a passage can take on new light, new meaning.  It is up to us to drown ourselves in the dialog of our King and open our hearts to His truth and His will.  It is up to us to nourish ourselves with the Word so that, at a moments notice, we can pour His truth into others with conviction and love. Jeremiah 29:11 carries such beauty and truth.

When caught in an “in-between” in life, it’s easy to stand stagnant in our faith.  After all, with so much else to figure out and take in, it seems harmless to put our pursuit of Christ on the back-burner for a while. He understands, right? There is too much else going on.  Too much that needs to be organized, too much that needs to be sorted out, too many other decisions to be made.  Once we are comfortable again with life’s circumstances, we can pick back up where we left off in our faith…right?

If you were dating someone who you were really serious about and truly wanted to build a relationship with, that would consume a great deal of your time and attention, yes? Text messages, calls, dates, conversations, meals together, activities together–you would genuinely enjoy that person’s company and work to maintain a healthy relationship with them. Now let’s say you’ve been getting more and more serious with them and they have been reciprocating the affection and love. They have been doting over you, loyal to you, fun, communicating well…all signs point to this being a fantastic relationship. Then one day everything stops. They don’t call, they don’t text, they don’t come over.  They won’t return your messages, they won’t respond to you on facebook, they won’t even make eye contact when you see them.  When you go over to their house to try to talk, they don’t answer the door, they don’t let you in.  You are left completely in the dark.  When you finally do hear from them, all you get is an “I’m busy.” “I’ve got more important things to do.” “I’ve got too much going on.” 2 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 4 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 6 months pass and all of a sudden the phone rings. Your text message inbox fills up, your facebook status feed blows up, that person is back at your door with a smile on their face, prepared to pick right back up where you left off. Is that relationship going to be the same immediately?–No.  They haven’t invested an ounce of time or attention or interest in you for half a year. They haven’t loved you–they deserted you–too wrapped up in the stress and worry of their own lives to even care to acknowledge you.  And while we are BLESSED to serve a God that infinitely loves us, patiently waits for us, and instantly forgives us–the point of the matter is that if we ignore him when He’s inconvenient for us, we lose time to learn more about Him and grow in our love for Him.  He knows us inside and out, but we cheat ourselves of time to know Him better and love Him more. And if we are cheating while He is loyal, how is that a healthy relationship?

God never brings us to a place to “shelf us” for a while, until He needs us again. He never places us in storage or abandons us.  Every single circumstance and every single phase we find ourselves in, throughout our lives, is perfectly constructed by God to be used for His glory.  Our greatest growth often occurs through our greatest struggles. Imagine the growth we could achieve in our relationship with Christ if we remained faithful to Him during the most uncertain times. Are our relationships amongst one another not strengthened in the same way? Faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, love.  These are all qualities that build solid relationships amongst people–so what is any different when it comes to building a solid, loving relationship with Christ? I think it is easy to get caught up in the “here and now” of daily life. Especially when we hit awkward seasons–phases of transition, phases of uncertainty, phases of confusion, phases of “in-between”.  But newsflash: in those times, who can offer you greater faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, and love than the perfect, magnificent God that created every inch of you?!

I think it is normal to take loved ones for granted at times. I know I have. I have done it since I was young. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I really started noticing that my behavioral patterns with my family weren’t ideal. You see, when I am in public or around friends and acquaintances, I always strive to put my best foot forward. I strive to wear a smile and keep a positive energy and a positive attitude. To be totally honest, that can get a little draining. I’m not trying to insinuate that I’m “fake” when I’m out and about, I just genuinely enjoy bringing positivity with me and seeing people smile…nothing makes me happier than hearing laughter. I’ve never been a fan of drama, so I make an effort to let those around me experience the best of me–you never know whose life you may be touching. With all of that said, it’s hard to run on a full tank 24/7. So when do I shut down and recharge? Either in my alone time or when I’m with family. After all, they are the ones who know me best–they know my heart, they know how I tick, they know my intentions. The only problem with that is that when I shut down, I get grumpy. I get snide and a stubborn and bossy. I’m human too after all, and I admittedly can be quite  the handful sometimes.  I need to vent. I need to reboot, I need to let loose some pent-up tension.  So who bears the brunt of my darker side?–the people I love the most. Do they tolerate me with patience and grace–every time. Do they love me unconditionally–without a doubt. Do they always selflessly support me–without fail. But is that fair to them–absolutely not. Is that loving–not at all. Is that nourishing to our relationships–no way. So why then, did I always pick those times to reboot and to let out my frustration? BECAUSE I KNEW THEY WOULD LOVE ME NO MATTER WHAT.

Man, talk about a sad mentality.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I fall victim to that mindset at times. But then again, don’t we all? And haven’t we ALL when it comes to our relationship with God?  It is easy to take for granted the things that we know are constant and unfailing in our lives.  “It’s no big deal, God will love me anyways.” “I know this is the wrong decision, but God will forgive me.” “God will understand if I focus on this issue for a while instead of focusing on Him first.” It’s so sad because it’s so true. We rationalize all the time. Especially when we are stuck in “in-between” phases in life. But those times are the times God longs for us the most.  Those times are the times that He wants to use us. Those times are the time He wants to teach us and to challenge us and to help us grow!

So step back and take a look at where you are right now. Are you lost in the “in-between”? Are you working to figure things out on your own the best you can and forgetting that God wants nothing more than to reveal to you all the answers? Stop. Put God First. Pursue God now. Run towards Him as fast as you can. Take a look at Jeremiah 29:11. He is promising you that He wants you to prosper and that He plans to give you hope and a future. It may not come in the exact package you ordered. It may look very different from what you expected.  But put your faith in Him, put your trust in Him.Don’t take God’s love for granted, don’t cheat Him. Love Him now like you love Him when everything is going well. Seek His face–seek His guidance. He longs to love you NOW.

There is no “in-between”. There is here and now. And there is God, always.

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Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 2)

Alright, to pick up where we left off, let’s take a look back at this awesome visual…

We discussed an overview of what the graph represents and what the lines and colors represent up until the big “dot”. Then we discussed that, BAM!, that dot represents something so unbelievably powerful–that dot represents our salvation! (If you missed yesterday’s post, I would encourage you to look back and read it so that you can follow along from this point on.)

Alright, so our life-line hits the point of our salvation and suddenly breaks into three trails. Immediately, in that instant, everything changes.  Don’t be mistaken here, being saved is not just an emotional movement. It is a literal change that takes place inside of us. We are physically filled with the Holy Spirit. We are unmistakably different.

Let’s take a look, first, at the blue line that immediately shoots straight up to 100% righteousness and then travels horizontally at 100% throughout the rest of our lives. This line represents our POSITION in Christ. In other words, this line represents what God sees when He looks at us.  We discussed earlier in the “Redefining Our Reflection” posts that after we are saved, when God sees us, He sees His Son in us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. So no matter what we do, we cannot change that position. We are Saved. We are SAVED! Wow. Take a moment to let that sink in. THAT is God’s unbelievable grace. That is the TRUE definition of God’s unfathomable grace. That no matter who we are, no matter what we have done in our past, no matter where we came from…we are SAVED. Our souls are sealed. The red zone disappears because we are His. Can you even imagine that? That concept literally brings me to my knees. He would forgive a sinner like me? He would immediately, without question, secure my soul? I don’t have to prove anything to Him? I don’t have to be flawless or have a perfect past or even understand all there is to understand about Jesus? He loves me THAT much? YES. YES! YES!!! It’s unfathomable. It’s overwhelming. WHAT AN AMAZING GOD WE SERVE! WHAT A GRACIOUS KING!

THAT is what Jesus Christ’s life did for us. THAT is salvation. We will study much deeper into that a little later on. It is such an unbelievable concept. We will definitely return to it. But what an unbelievable truth. No matter what we did or what we do…no matter how many times we stumbled in the past or how many times we stumble in the future, if we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, that’s it. We are saved. Unreal. Check out this AWESOME verse. One of my favorites…

Paul, who once murdered Christians and was truly a horrible man–a man who society would dismiss and judge without thinking twice–was SO filled and moved by the Holy Spirit, that he wrote this scripture,

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The GRACE of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1: 13-14

Beautiful. He is so unreal.

Okay, now let’s take a look at the black, wiggly line that breaks from the salvation point. This line represents our CONDITION in Christ.  This is a line that is ever-changing.  A line that represents our walk with Christ and our growth in our faith.  It is wiggly because we are human.  Like we discussed before, we are bound by human flesh.  We are bound by temptation and emotion and greed and lust and everything else that falls into our human-nature. AND, to top it all off, we live in a world that sin thrives.  So this line illustrated our journey.  We have highs and lows in our walk. Everyone’s looks different. We have struggles, we give in to temptation, we learn, we grow, then we repeat it all again. We are incapable of doing it perfectly. But this line, this condition, is so important. Because this represents how Christ-like we are living our lives. And it represents how bright His light can shine through us to others.

In studying this line, you have to take into account the red line that breaks from the point as well. Just because we are saved, doesn’t mean Satan just goes away. No chance. He doesn’t have a shot at winning our souls anymore, but he definitely still has a shot at affecting our earthly condition in Christ.  Ideally, he would love for our paths to follow that red line’s course. That is what he is trying to drag us down to–because if we are incapable of rising above his lies, then we are incapable of properly teaching non-believers and spreading God’s word.  The more he can affect our condition, the more he causes confusion, and deceit, and temptation and resentment.

Our condition in Christ is basically what we work at our whole lives. The reason we study the Word and go to church and participate in fellowship and constantly strive to grow in our faith is so that we can grow in our condition. It is NOT so that we can “impress” God and get a better seat in heaven. No way. It is impossible to “earn” His love. It’s already granted–100%–when we accept His Son as our savior. I think we often have the perception that we are “working” our whole lives to “get in” to heaven. No. That’s just not the case.  What we are working at our whole lives is to grow closer to Him. To teach others and to share His love with as many people as we possibly can. Not just through our words–but through our actions and through our hearts.

Does that make sense? It’s so beautiful. It’s blindingly beautiful. And it’s so humbling.  I feel like this is a topic that isn’t taught clearly enough in our society.  So many people have such a skewed perception on what salvation really is and what our true purpose is, as Christians.  He loves us SO much and He asks SO little of us, but SO much of us at the same time. Nothing about our condition in Christ is easy. It’s so challenging. And it’s even harder growing in our condition in this world that we live in.  But that is what we strive for, as Christians.

So that is a general overview of that visual. I hope it all makes sense. In the next several posts, we will start to look at each specific component in much more detail.  We will break it down and see how it applies to our lives and how we can better understand it all. He loves us so much. That blue line says it all…