In between. If I had to describe how I have felt lately it would be best expressed by those words.
We celebrated Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, and invited the ladies who work for us over to share the dinner. The smoked chicken, mashed potatoes, rolls dripping with butter, roasted veggies and creamed corn were delicious, not to mention the pies. We ate like kings, and felt a bit sick afterward, and, in addition, I felt the “in between”. That place in between the joy of celebrating with a full table, and giving thanks for God’s provision, all while knowing that there are many people around us who have been very hungry this year. A touch of guilt that comes from knowing that others do not have the abundance that I do.
We’ve been preparing for Christmas, and celebrating Hanukkah as a family, joyful in each of the little, family traditions that we’ve accumulated over the years. Sweet conversations that come from books we have read each year. Precious discussions about the miracle of lights, and the baby who was the Light of the world. Silly songs, fun game nights, goofy cookie decorating… And in the middle of it all, the in between. Because this year has been so hard on many around us. Every few days lately it seems we hear that someone’s family member or close friend has died. I have sat with tears in my eyes as I’ve watched the weight fall heavy on people here that I have come to love. The weight is heavier when I know that many of those who are dying do not know that Jesus died for them.
The in between. That tension between mourning and celebration. It’s easy, on any given day, for me to get completely overwhelmed by the mourning, and lose the celebration. Yet how do I mourn and still cling to hope?
If 2020 has taught us anything, I would say it has taught us that we are not in control. Most of us know that at times, but this year has made that crystal clear on a grand scale. In doing so, it has stripped off a facade of control that many people have been living under and revealed something most of us want to ignore… neediness. For Christians, this shouldn’t come as too big of a shock. After all, we should be consistently operating under the understanding that we are in desperate need of Christ. For everything. But are we? Do we live like that? Have we been?
When confronted with our own neediness in all of the 2020 craziness, what have our reactions been? Fear, bitterness, panic, and anger? I think if most of us are being honest, we have probably gone through all of those at one time or another. But have we also been able to show people a sliver of our hope? Better yet, the fullness of our hope? A hope that is not dependent on everything getting “back to normal”, the year 2020 just being over, a cure for Covid, our candidate getting into office, or even the stability of governments and countries. Our hope is not, and can never be in those things.
The fullness of our hope… Immanuel, God with us. A baby in a manger. A young boy who taught in the temple and had everyone shocked with the words that were coming from his mouth. A man who took on the sorrows of the world when He stepped into the ministry that God had for Him. A man who loved His Father more than His life, and chose to willingly include us in His love, although we brought nothing to the table. A Man who made a way for us to KNOW God by paying the penalty for sins He never committed. Our sins. Immanuel, God with us.
I pray for myself, and for anyone else feeling a bit lost in the in between right now, that while we mourn with those who mourn, we still live with hope. That as we see the overwhelming amount of darkness that feels like it’s creeping so close, we fix our eyes on the Light of the world. That we look for ways to love with hope, serve with hope, listen with hope and speak with hope, so that those without hope might see a light in their own very dark place.
Matthew 4:16 “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)