Have you ever noticed how our lives progress forward in steps? There are moments that truly define a portion of our lives and represent a dramatic step up (graduation, marriage, our first child) and then there are the pauses in-between. We feel stuck, wanting to move on but we can’t, since the opportunity eludes us. It is in these in-between times that we become frustrated, since we know we want something more but aren’t sure how to get it. One of my friends recently said that in these times we should not look toward what is to come so much as learning to embrace the act of becoming, or to enjoy the process of who we will inevitably be just as much as the outcome because it is in the quieter times in our lives that God does the most remodeling of our souls.
Last summer I was stuck in just such a state of mind, unable to move forward and unwilling to go back. I did not know why I was stagnant but now I can see that I could not be where I am now if I had not been through a period of waiting. Held on that plateau in my life was a younger and far less mature person than climbed onto the next rung of life’s ladder. I had to experience the trial of waiting and in many ways deal with some painful truths about myself before I could move forward.
Nothing in life is truly stagnant. We are either becoming better people or more selfish ones. Our friendships are strengthening or dwindling. Our faith is growing or fading depending on our daily choices. We are either learning from mistakes or suffering from them. Every day we must decide whether to do what we believe is right or to abandon all principles and follow the guidance of the world… and let’s face it, the world’s advice is worth about as much as a sheet of toilet paper.
In-between times can be hard but we have a choice whether to embrace them and search for ways to better ourselves or to resent our life away. What would it mean for our lives, our souls, our relationships if instead of complaining about having to wait on things, we took action in the meantime to build relationships, or dealt with old pain, or help us become better in some way? If your goal as a young woman is to be a wife and mother, instead of fretting about whether or not “he” will show up, concentrate on learning how to be a good wife and mother. Learn to cook! You may find the joy you anticipate having in the future can be yours in doing something you love.
Last summer I went through a difficult time with a series of relationships that fell apart. It took months for me to admit to my role in what happened and repent of my previous behavior. I spent over a year not speaking to one friend, and while yes, part of that time was spent feeling sorry for myself, the rest was focused on amending my behavior. Guess what. God used that year apart to mature both of us in the areas we needed to mature in, and we are friends again, with a much stronger understanding of one another than we had before.
If last year was a time in which God permitted me to reap the results of my poor choices and selfishness through diminishing relationships, this year has been a time of discovering new ones. He wanted me to experience the loss of friends in order for me to truly appreciate the new ones and be certain I did not make the same mistakes all over again! But in the meantime, I was in the in-between, waiting for life to truly happen.
One of my favorite stories is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. It is very much a novel about the “in-between” as much as the end result. In it, the heroine spends a good deal of her early years in a deplorable school whose notion of instructing values to children is by cruelty rather than kindness. Jane might have spent much of her youth feeling trapped in the in-between and resenting her life but instead cultivates a friend in another student. Helen soon dies but she helps Jane embrace faith and trust in God. It is that bold strength of character and faith that later permits Jane to leave the man she loves and in doing so, ultimately bring about his redemption. The story builds toward eventual happiness with many stops along the way, each seemingly unimportant but all influence the outcome. Had Jane chosen any path other than the one she took, one that involved a great deal of patience, she would not have discovered happiness. If she had not spent time at school, she would not have been Jane.
All our lives take dramatic leaps forward but most of us dwell for extended periods in the in-between. It is good to look forward and anticipate the turns our lives may take but just as important to live in the here and now and see the quieter times not as dismal, but as a stepping stone to better things. ♥