Meantime vs. Meanwhile

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines meantime and meanwhile exactly the same.  The intervening time.

Intervening is occurring or falling between points of time.  To restate the definition of the meantime or meanwhile then would be to say it is the time in between two events.  While these words are synonymous and are interchangeable I hear a significant difference in the two.

Is it just me or does meanwhile sound more pleasant than meantime?

Think about it.  When you’re listening to or reading a story and you hear “Meanwhile…”,  isn’t there an element of surprise?  Doesn’t it usually indicate some sort of  behind-the-scenes activity?  There’s a tone of excitement.  Expectation.  Anticipation.  The meanwhile isn’t idle.  What about when you hear In the meantime…?  It’s as if whoever is involved in the meantime is left out.  As if the meantime is a holding cell.  Kind of like at the doctor’s office when the nurse calls you back to check your blood pressure , do any needed blood work, and check your weight only to send you back into the waiting room.  By this point you’ve forgotten where you were in your magazine and your seat has been taken.  It’s the in-between.

I’ve spent eight months in the meantime.

One event was over and it was on to the next.  Or so I thought.  Instead of heading straight into the next event we found ourselves in the meantime.  Stupid meantime.  When we headed back to SC I knew I would miss Seattle.  I missed it deeply before I even boarded the plane.  However something forced us back.  We have our speculations.  Believe me, I’ve fought this.  Derek and I both have wrestled hard with this.  Did I expect the meantime?  Yeah.  Did I expect an eight month meantime?  Heck no!  But here we are.  Some days we finish well with hope and faith in a God who sees what we can’t.  We trust in a God who is working all things together.  We rest knowing that our God is good, faithful, true, and completely trustworthy.  Other days the meantime suffocates us.  We doubt.  We believe lies that tell us we’ve been abandoned.  That we’re failing.  That we’ve already failed.  It’s dark and lonely.  You see we were called to Seattle from a place of waiting for something bigger and better than where we were at.  Our year in Seattle was one of growth and the pain that accompanies such growth.  I thought surely it would only get better.  I quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

The meantime humbles.  

What does one do in the meantime?  Somedays I feel like all I’ve done is pace the floor, walked in circles, exhausted from a journey to nowhere.  But surely that is not what this time is for.  This time of unsettled chaos has knocked this color-coded planner out.  But I’m coming to.

What if this time wasn’t meant to be the meantime but a meanwhile?

I certainly believe the meantime was necessary for me.  It was a heart check, to say the least.  God has used it and continues to use it daily to refine me.  I kicked and screamed, begged and pleaded, for God to give us a plan. Direction.  Anything!  There was dreaded silence for months.  {Either that or I refused to listen.}  A couple months ago direction began to form.  There wasn’t a flashing neon sign, although that would’ve been helpful.  There was only a series of small decisions becoming one big decision.  However, this decision, this next step, requires more waiting.  This next event is close enough to see yet too far to grasp.  So the meantime continues.

But what if I chose to allow the meantime to become meanwhile?  Although I don’t always see the Lord working especially during this intervening of time, He is.  Even though I am quick to doubt His faithfulness, He is.  This part of my story may not make a bit of sense to me but the reality is that my story is only a small part of a much bigger Story.

The meantime exhausts me and weighs me down.  The meanwhile breathes expectation.  In the meantime my focus is on me.  In the meanwhile my focus is on Christ.  In the meantime I walk as one without hope.  In the meanwhile I walk in the hope of Christ Jesus.  In the meantime I’m saddened by what I am not doing and can’t make happen.  In the meanwhile I rejoice because God in Christ has done it all for me and will accomplish His will in me.  By His grace I can spend more days in the meanwhile trusting in my God who is without a doubt working all things together for my good.

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