The “Land In Between”
Over the past several months I have been navigating through what I not so fondly refer to as the “Land in Between”. After a very busy, fruitful and intense three year work assignment, I am now in transition once again. The “Land in Between” is also referred to as “liminal space”. Author Richard Rohr describes this place as,
“…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”
Any life circumstance that is characterized by a major life change, unexpected events or transition will thrust you into the “Land in Between”. If this is your first time here, welcome. You are in for a life altering journey. If you are returning, welcome back, its time to remember again what it means to trust.
I have lived in this place several times over the past twenty five years. Having visited the “Land in Between” on several occasions you would think I would grow accustomed to its “terrain”. However I must confess that the “Land in Between” is a very uncomfortable place with much difficult landscape to traverse. Though the terrain is seemingly treacherous at times, the environment of this place is also a fertile seedbed for personal growth. Personal growth is a good thing, but lest we be naive’, growth is a painful process. Change demands growth and growth elicits pain. Sounds fun, right?…not really…but it is good. .
The greatest challenge of going through a season of transition for me is battling the insatiable desire to know, “what’s next?” I wish I could say that this curiosity is born solely out of a sense of excited anticipation of things to come. Many times however, my desire to know the future is more an effort to try and avoid the drop of the proverbial hammer of circumstances outside of my control. I think my desire to know is a veiled attempt to grasp for control….to create my own place of security and predictability…as if knowing whats coming will insulate me from the demands of faith. The irony is that the “security and predictability” that I produce or that this world offers are illusions. The security the world offers is temporary at best. The control over circumstances that I seek doesn’t produce the peace of mind and heart that God wants me to experience through Christ. I am learning that lesson once again as I wait upon the Lord and learn to find security in Him.
Waiting and trust. Do we ever master these? I know I’m not there yet. I believe that part of what makes these so difficult in the “Land in Between” is the temptation to fear and worry about the outcome. I’ve never tried a literal trapeze but navigating the “Land in Between” is like living in the air between trapeze bars. You have to let go of one and fly through the air if you are going to reach the other bar.The place in between the bars is a bit unsettling…what if I reach out for the bar and its not there? It is a bit of a paradox to realize that the God who made us desire security leads us into places where it appears that security eludes us. What if I trust God and things don’t go as I planned?
One of the characteristics of the “Land In Between” is what the Bible refers to as the “Valley of Dry Bones”. In the book of Ezekiel, there is an amazingly strange account of the Lord leading the prophet Ezekiel, in the Spirit, into a vast valley that was filled with thousands upon thousands of dry, dead corpse bones. What Ezekiel saw was a literal representation of the reality that his nation had experienced. Having been taken into captivity into a foreign land by a brutal enemy, the future of the tribes of Judah seemed beyond hope…their destiny as God’s covenant people had died as they languished in a strange land far from home. The conversation and events that followed were as strangely wonderful as the vision itself…
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Ezekiel 37: 1-3
Many times when we are experiencing a season of transition or uncertainty it can seem as if everything is dead. Our dreams, hopes, aspirations, desires are “very dry” and very dead. It can feel as if the Lord has left the house and all that remains is a barren wasteland of despair and the painful reminders of what might have been. The season we find ourselves in may have been thrust upon us through no fault of our own or it may be the result of bad personal choices. Either way, the valley is full of death, with no hope as far as the eye can see….but God…
Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'”
The same God that allowed the captivity of His people also brought what was dead back to life. The tribes of Judah dwelt in the “Land in Between” and their despair was overwhelming. They felt as if the “Land in Between” was their permanent dwelling. Their hope to return to their homeland was lost. The dream was dead…except for God…the God who can bring dead things back to life.
There is a psalm wherein I have found great encouragement in my travels through the “Land in Between”. I hope you find solace and strength in it today as well…
Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters;
They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep.
For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery.
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Psalm 107:23-31
The same God who allows the storm is the One who can use it to deliver you to a new place of promise. I have found that once I am delivered safely to that place, I am far better equipped to help those who are in need. If you are like me today, living in the “Land in Between”, take courage in the promises of an unfailing, all-wise and infinitely loving Heavenly Father who says…
“I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” Hebrews 13:5b
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will finish it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil.1:6
And remember, though we are on this earth now with its present uncertainties, one day we will depart from the “Land in Between” and be with the One who loves us with a perfect love and dwell with Him and His children in a place that will truly be an eternal home.
I pray for grace and strength for you to come out the other side of the “Land in Between” stronger and more full of faith than ever before!