“When God delays in fulfilling our little thoughts, it is to have Himself room to work out His great ones.” 29 December 1903
“How do we live in the meanwhile?” These words have been playing over and over in my mind since I first heard them this past Sunday. So, with a tip of the hat to Dr. Will Miller, I take this thought and wrestle out its meaning in my own life.
Consider, at start, how much of our thoughts are consumed with looking back (better days or wounds sustained) or looking ahead to the next big thing. Since our earliest years we have strained for what was next: starting school, summer vacation, graduation from high school, starting college, graduating from college, first fulltime job, marriage, children. Later on the future held a job promotion, perhaps, a significant accomplishment, a bigger better house, retirement, the dream trip or site.
Fact is, much of our life is lived “in the meanwhile” – that middle ground remembering (for good or for bad) what has been and longing for something yet to come. When things are going swimmingly, “meanwhile” is not a bad place to be but there are those times – periods of time – when our existence seems ordinary, at best, or insufferable at worst. We long for the extraordinary to relieve us from the ordinary. . . we desperately pray for something, someone to rescue us from whatever lament we are experiencing.
What do we do when we are waiting for the big miracle? The change or the circumstances that will make the difference? How do we cope with the meanwhile? How do we live in the meanwhile?
Consider the Children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, looking back to what they had (slavery). . . remembering the big miracle (deliverance). . . and looking ahead to the next big thing (the promised land). Their problem was “how to live in the meanwhile.” And they didn’t do a very good job of that! They looked back with longing, forgetting their true condition: oppressed slaves; they looked ahead with yearning for what seemed unattainable: the land of promise. In the meantime they grumbled and complained and, in the process, stalled entrance to the land of their desire.
Frankly, they were not unlike ourselves – at least me, at least some of the time. How do we “live in the meanwhile?” How do we exist without knowing for sure what is ahead and making sense of what is behind? Probably each one of us could say, without a moment’s hesitation, what it is that would give shape and meaning to everything – past and future – if only we could make it happen. If only we had control of the circumstances.
Or could we? Could we really make meaning and sense of life with our thoughts, our plans? Lilias suggests that our thoughts are, in fact, small compared to what God has planned for us. “When God delays fulfilling our little thoughts, it is to have Himself room to work out His great ones.” Do I really believe, in the midst of the mess and mystery, that God’s great plans will trump my thoughts – my hopes, my plans, my dreams?
We, like the fickle and feckless Children of Israel, have been given a map that tracks the story – His Story – and we know that despite our limited vision, there is not only a beginning but an ending. Better yet, a new beginning in the endless elasticity of time called Eternity.
Futhermore, we have been given a context in which to live out the “meanwhile:” a community of faith, the church which, while not perfect, is united in that same pilgrimage to make meaning along the way to true understanding. Holy knowledge. We laugh and cry and listen and learn – from each other. We break bread and worship; we forgive each other and are forgiven – through the Grace of God.
In the meanwhile, we capture joy as it comes our way – catch it on the wing, so to speak – in nature, in art, the face of a child, a song, a meal, in conversation that touches deep places in our hearts. In music, in praise, in fellowship, in remembering. In the meanwhile.
How do we live in the meanwhile? Ultimately, we get our cue from God-made-man, in Jesus who chose to live in the meanwhile with us. Incarnate. How did He live in the meanwhile? He loved and served. He served and loved. Then He laid down His life on a cross. His supreme act of love and service for us. In so doing, He liberated us to love and serve. . . to serve and love. . . more perfectly.
How do we live in the meanwhile? Love. Serve. Rejoice. Follow. Believe!
Painting: Journal 1893