Tension is a good thing. It keeps us on the edge of our seat when reading a book or watching a movie. Tension makes cranes work and keeps suspension bridges suspended.
But tension doesn’t feel so good when we’re living in between our Now and Not-Yet. That tension can be a place of wondering or wandering. Doubting or doubling down on our faith.
World views of that tension
Secular and pseudo-religious philosophies try to explain that tension. The Japanese concept of Ma and Transformational Presence’s philosophy about “luminal space” talk of an energy threshold between Now and Not-Yet. They attempt to tap into it while admitting they can’t control it. (Ya think?)
But there’s truth to the notion of energy in “in-between” spaces.
Outer space isn’t mostly empty as previously believed. The space inside atoms isn’t mostly empty, either. Both outer and inner space contain enormous amounts of energy between the solid things we can see. God’s creation attests to His presence and workings in every in-between space.
So why should I think that the space between my Now and Not-Yet is empty and void?
Yet that in-between space often feels like a black hole: don’t know much about it; can’t figure it out; have an inkling something is going on, but no idea how or when I’ll come out of the other end.
God’s view of that tension
Isaiah 64:3 (NIV) says, “When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.” The Hebrew word for “expect” describes the tension involved in waiting and alludes to the tightness in the strands of a rope. God is at work in the tension between Now and Not-Yet—plus He delights to do things in it that we don’t even look for.
How many times do I need to be reminded that God’s ways aren’t mine? Apparently as many as it takes to trust Him implicitly.
My latest Not-Yet
Case in point: Last weekend I attended a writers’ conference online. The people physically there had the time of their life, while the rest of us attending virtually were saddled with the host’s technical difficulties. Among other things, the one-on-one Zoom meeting I was slated to have with the owner of a Christian literary agency … didn’t happen.
I spent more time than I care to recount in being angry, confessing and praying about my anger, and admitting [again] that God’s plans are always better than my shortsighted desires.
I asked God to change my heart. I thanked Him in advance for doing things I couldn’t possibly imagine. Full disclosure: I did that with one eye open like, “I’m saying the words, but they haven’t traveled all the way from my head to my heart yet.”
Bottom line: In God’s wisdom, the Not-Yet was still the best place for me. A place for me to trust Him more. If I was still in the Not-Yet, I wasn’t prepared yet.
Then the closing ceremony came. And with it, announcements of the winners of five writing contests that happen every year as part of the conference.
My name was called TWICE.
Yes, I ugly cried. Hot tears of humility, gratitude, and joy. In the history of the conference, only one other person had snagged that honor.
And He blessed me with a friend who did have a seat at the conference and got permission to drive my awards to me so I wouldn’t have to wait to get them in the mail. She went an hour out of her way to bring me the awards that same day. WOW.
Advantages of the Not-Yet
So what does the tension between our Now and Not-Yet gain us?
- We realize we’re not smart enough to solve all our problems.
- We lean into God.
- We realize how completely He supports us (and often literally holds us up).
- Then our faith grows.
God abides in the tension between Now and Not-Yet
The tension between our Now and Not-Yet doesn’t necessarily resolve dramatically, quickly, or completely. Between the Old and New Testaments, the Israelites went four hundred years without a prophet—and without hearing from God. Think of what it took for them to remain faithful to Him! Then Jesus came, and everyone missed it. Even His disciples didn’t “get” what He was about—even though Jesus explained many things to them in private that He didn’t share in public.
Are we any different?
I’m grateful that God revels in working between the Now and the Not-Yet, bringing incredible things to pass that He can’t wait to reveal to us. I’m awed that He doesn’t get tired of our questioning Him or kicking tires when we can’t see Him working in our Not-Yet.
Father, help me to see You working in the Right-Now of my life. Increase my faith to trust You for my Not-Yet. I want to enjoy all the blessings and promises you’ve planned for my Not-Yet. Thank You for helping me stay the course. You are ever faithful. Holy, holy, holy is Your Name. Amen.
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