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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Wilderness?

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.  And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes for the mouth of the Lord.  {Deuteronomy 8:1-3 esv}

Moses is speaking to the Israelites, instructing them with the same things he has before.  We all need reminding, don’t we?  In the prior chapters he has helped the people remember  what God has brought them through, how He has been so good to them.  He also calls them to obedience.  Deuteronomy, chapter 8 is opened by the instruction to be careful to do all that they have been commanded to do.  And you shall remember, Moses says.  Remember the whole way the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.

He led them.  The Lord led them through the wilderness.

Often times in our wilderness, our desert, our times of seemingly wandering, we scream “God, where are you?!”  I suspect the Israelites asked that.  They believed that they had been brought to the desert only to die.  {Exodus 14:11-2, 16:3,7, 17:3}  Personally, in my wilderness, I tend to feel abandoned by God.  I quickly doubt He’s even there and fail to believe the truth of His Word, that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

When life is going well I ask few questions.  But when life brings trial and suffering I have a whole list of questions.  Most of my questions center around where and why.  Where is God?  and Why ( fill in the blank )?

So why this wilderness?  Why have we been here so long?    

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you , testing you to know what was in your heart. {v. 2}

Humble you.  Testing you.  To know what was in your heart.  Has that proved true in your wilderness, past or present?  A resounding YES from me!  Have I been humbled {or being humbled}?  Check.  Has my heart been revealed?  Check.  Am I being changed as a result?  Most definitely.  So is it safe to say then that this wilderness is for my good?  I think so.

God led the Israelites through the wilderness to humble them, to test them to reveal what was in their heart.  In verse 3 Moses confirmed the Israelites humbling.  And he humbled you.  God accomplished what He set out to do.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  {8:3}  God humbled the Israelites by putting them in a place of need.  Matthew Henry writes, “God often brings his people low, so that he may have the honor of helping them.”  They were hungry.  They needed sustenance.  God supplied that. They had come to a point where they were completely dependent of Him.  There was no where else to turn.  Nothing else to do.  To quote Matthew Henry again, “the extremity of [the Israelites] want [made] the supply more acceptable, and God’s goodness to them therein the more remarkable.”  When I’m at a place where the Lord lets me hunger, then when He feeds me His goodness is that much greater.  

Remember the whole way the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness.  To humble you, reveal your heart, let you hunger, and feed you.  I get this.  I’m there.  Right in the middle of the wilderness.  Wandering but getting nowhere, so it seems.  But the Lord is doing a great work.  The humiliating heart reveal is unpleasant and painful.  But His goodness is remarkable.  He supplies everything so that I know it all comes by Him.

 

Gift from a Friend

I spoke with a dear Seattle friend a few weeks ago.  She gave me the gift of a book recommendation.  May not be your kind of gift but I’m a reader.  I love books!  And not the digital kind.  I need to touch the book, flip the pages, underline, and dog ear my favorite pages.  She has read this particular book several times herself and said it would be a perfect read for me right now.  I took note of the book title to add it to my Amazon wish list.  The next morning at our homeschool tutoring program the family doing the family presentation recommended the exact same book!  I had to get this book.  Derek made a rule that I cannot buy a new book until I finish the ones I have.  So I decided to wait.  However, as I browsed the Barnes and Noble bookshelves a few days before a road trip to Florida I found it.  Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.  I didn’t even have to think about it.

I didn’t start the book until our ride home on Sunday.  In fact, I started and finished it.  Habakkuk 3:19 (ESV) says, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Hurnard’s allegory takes the reader on the journey of Much-Afraid with her companions Sorrow and Suffering to the High Places.  I found myself identifying with her throughout the book.  One particular section resonated with me so much so that I stared the page and have re-read it several times.

“Shepherd,” she said despairingly, “I can’t understand this.  The guides you gave me say that we must go down there into that desert, turning right away from the High Places altogether.  You don’t mean that, do you?  You can’t contradict yourself.  Tell them we are not to go there, and show us another way.  Make a way for us, Shepherd, as you promised.”

He looked at her and answered very gently, “That is the path, Much-Afraid, and you are to go down there.”

“Oh, no,” she cried.  “You can’t mean it.  You said if I would trust, you would bring me to the High Places, and that path leads right away from them.  It contradicts all that you promised.”

“No,” said the Shepherd, “it is not contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible.”

Much-Afraid felt as though he had stabbed her to the heart.  “You mean,” she said incredulously, “you really mean that I am to follow that path down and down into that wilderness and then over that desert, away from the mountains indefinitely?  Why?” (and there was a sob of anguish in her voice) “it may be months, even years, before that path leads back to the mountains again.  O Shepherd, do you mean it is indefinite postponement?”

….

As she looked out over what seemed an endless desert, the only path she could see led farther and farther away from the High Places, and it was all desert.

Then he answered very quietly, “Much-Afraid, do you love me enough to accept the postponement and the apparent contradiction of the promise, and to go down there with me into the desert?”  (Hinds’ Feet on High Places, Tyndale House, pp. 69-70)

We seemed to be in an endless desert.  We seem to be going farther and farther away from what our hearts desire.  The past 6 months have been spent hitting road block after road block.  We’ve seen light at the end of the tunnel a few times but quickly a shadow is cast and there’s no more light.  I was encouraged by this beautiful, classic, fiction allegory.  Will I, do I, love Christ enough to accept this postponement and continue in the desert with Him?  {I won’t give you the storyline in case you want to read it yourself.}  I know through the Word of God that He will use this desert.  This time will not be in vain.  It’s a season of beautiful, painful refinement.  “When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”  (Job 23:10b)

Thanks again to my sweet friend for introducing me to this book.