I am living in a “in-between time.” I have not fully arrived to the next place in my journey. It is a place of ‘betwixt and between.’ It is a hard place. It is a nominal space—a space that native American Indians called, “crazy time.” I understand that. When you live in an “in-between time”-- it feels crazy. Nothing seems to make sense—even God. Such places--such seasons of life can leave us torn, tired and weary. We can feel like something is going to happen--but not yet.
No, not yet. The "in-between time" I am describing and living is this 'not yet time --an awkward time in life.' Let me explain.Most of us, if we are honest, can confess to a season in our lives that we felt like we have not fully arrived. Like crossing a long suspension bridge, we have started across the huge spans but we are not finished. We look down below us and we see choppy and turbulent waters. Big waves. Whitewater. It looks dangerous and it is. It really is a time of chaos--a time of uncertainty-- a time of waiting and hoping and waiting some more for clarity to come.
Some people describe this time as a time of feeling stuck. Like you can’t move forward or backward. For me, it’s not stuck, for I know I am moving—time and the quick movement of the calendar shows me that time is not stuck. It’s more like being bewildered. It's like being disillusioned. It's like being disappointed that there is no clarity when you think you most need it and want it--lest you feel like you're going to die.
Ten years ago, I wrote the book, The Lazarus Life and in that book I discussed a chapter that many people across the world have written me and talked with me about.They have described how meaningful my words were--how much my words articulated their words. It is the chapter in the book on ‘The Lingering Jesus’. It seems, in that chapter, I hit a nerve—a nerve that many people don’t talk about much these days. Dealing with a Jesus who lingers seemed gutsy.
Now, ten years later, I want to underline and highlight the entire chapter, Disappointed and Disillusioned with God. In the book, I explore the story of Lazarus’ sickness and death. I explore the obvious disappointment and disillusionment that Lazarus and his sisters faced. As Lazarus lay sick and got worse—and not better, they all had to wait on Jesus. They had to wait for Jesus to do something—to show up and do something, for crying out loud. Lazarus had to wait as did his nervous sisters, Mary and Martha for Jesus to show up. They wanted the ailing Lazarus to get better—to be healed and for this to happen, Jesus would need to show up. After all, we know that Lazarus was a dear friend of Jesus.
But even in deep friendship, Lazarus, as well as Mary and Martha would have to learn what we must also learn: We have to wait. We have to learn to wait. We cannot rush God. We simply do not know God’s timetable.We want breakthroughs. We don't really like cloudy times of life. We want sun; light; clarity. We resists these times of being in-between--these crazy times. We grow tired of the long, dark winter of our lives. We want the light. We want the miracle. But, when we are in the liminal times of our lives—those times that are crazy and confusing, there is nothing to do but wait.Weary of Those Who Feel They Know Everything.
I have grown tired of people who think and believe that they know the answers to God’s secrets and mysteries. There are entire people groups, churches and denominations who seem to swear by the absolute certainty of charts, logic and Powerpoint presentations that we can know God’s will with certainty. To them, everything is so... black and white. Maybe gray scars them. Maybe a liminaI time is too frightening. I suppose, by living well into my sixth decade of life that I can more surely say, ‘there is more that I don’t know—than what I do know.’
I see most things these days as mystery.I have grown disillusioned with a logical, linear and factual belief system, it seems. Lazarus helped me let go of thinking I had God all figured out. Gwen’s cancer helped also. So did my son’s Leighton’s 38 days in intensive care when his appendix burst and spread disease into every cavity of his young body. Injustice in the world has opened my eyes as well. So has my weariness of American politics and leaders who seem out of touch with reality—at least the reality I am living in these days. I am a friend of the American poet, Mary Oliver. She won me when I read her words:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say, “Look!” and laugh in astonishment and bow their heads. ( in her poem, “Evidence.”)
Those, with whom I feel an affinity with, are those of us who do posture themselves by walking by faith and leave the sight to those who are smarter, further along and more sage like than I am. Most of us have to just walk by faith to get through these in-between times. Is there any other way that the prophets, poets and apostles offered us? I, like Lazarus, am having to let go of my need to know.
I, like Mary and Martha, am having to let go of my clinching fists to hang on to what I thought I knew in exchange for surrendering my fists to be more open, more trusting and more childlike as I age and to age, step by step and little by little. This letting go thing is hard and it doesn’t happen quickly—because if we let go quickly, we may not have let go at all. No, it is a long, slow wrestling to the mat where, our tenacity to say we know anything at all, is defeated. Like Jacob, who wrestled with God, all I really want these days is the blessing—not more facts. I am having to look into the darkness of my disappointments and my disillusionment’s and learn to hold them in the chambers of my heart as well as my as my dimly lit wick of a candle and pray that the winds of this winter will not blow my little light out.
How are we to understand the Jesus who lingers when we need him most? How do we ever reconcile the Jesus who chooses to not show up and to intervene? All of this waiting and all of this letting go challenges everything. It challenges our ideas and conceptions of God. It challenges our hypotheses on how we think and have been taught that Jesus should act. Our entire notion of the spiritual life is challenged when we hold on to our dogmas and doctrines more than we hold on to the hymn of his garment as he passes by our lives. Thomas Keating writes for us so beautifully when he says,
“Surrender to the unknown marks the great transition of the spiritual journey. On the brink of each new breakthrough there is a crisis of trust and of love” (The Better Part, pp. 20-21).
I believe Keating is right. The great transitions of our spiritual lives is marked by unknowns and deep questions. This is the place where trust is forced to be true or a lie and the place where Love shows up best. I was introduced years ago to a prayer that has become so meaningful that I have tried to memorize it and on my off days, glance at it pasted in my journal. It is a prayer that I can hear Lazarus, Mary and Martha pray in their silent wondering and moments of solitude when there is no scaffold to seem to stand upon any more.
This prayer, for me and thousands of others,is a gem to ponder, dare to pray and rest in: The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it's for my healing.I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,situations, and conditions.I let go of my desire for power and control.I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,approval and pleasure.I let go of my desire for survival and security.I let go of my desire to change any situation,condition, person or myself.I open to the love and presence of God and God's action within. Amen.
When I wrote The Lazarus Life, I was also able to develop a workbook where I offer some ways to work through your disillusionment and disappointment.