For the past year and a half, I have been living in a state of in-between. Since the announcement of my retirement in February of last year and the consecration of Caryle Hughes on September 22, I have been on a journey that has been both wonderful and weird. I can sense that many people across the diocese are on a similar journey. So many join with me in the excitement of Caryle’s arrival, and yet wonder what it all will be like.
It turns out that much of our lives are lived in-between – between a Rector leaving and a new one coming; between contemplating a job change or a move and actually making it; between the season of dating and getting married; the pregnant time before the kids arrive or before they leave home; between a diagnosis and death.
What I have discovered in earlier in-between times in my life is that while there is anxiety – sometimes anticipatory, sometimes crippling, it can also be a very spiritually rich time. God shows up in new and unexpected ways. In the Bible, living in an in-between time seems to be a vocational requirement. As writer Debi Thomas points out, “Adam waits for a partner; Noah waits for the flood waters to recede; Abraham waits for a son; Jacob waits seven years to marry Rachel; the Israelites wait for deliverance; Jesus waits in the wilderness; Paul waits to get back his sight – and then waits several years to begin his travels as the first missionary.”
There are important things to be learned in the in-between time. And there is the challenging invitation to pay attention to what God is up to in that unique and awkward space; and how the soul might be nurtured, if not transformed.
We live in a culture that does little to honor the in-between time. In fact, our 24/7 world reinforces the culturally accepted challenge to get on with it. We don’t want to wait for the internet (and there is always some new product that promises to get us there more quickly); many of us get grumpy when Amazon doesn’t deliver our order fast enough; we expect the media to keep us hourly informed on the latest dating escapades of the world’s celebrities, or the most recent insult from the political or Facebook arena.
Resistance to the in-between often results in spiritual or political polarity. Which is how we find ourselves now as a country. Honoring the in-between time fosters resilience; the refusal to wait engenders rigidity. Increasingly, people tend to frame life’s issues in either/or, on/off alternatives. And then the bonds that hold us together become binds that silo us off from one another.
Two weeks ago, I attended the first national convention of Better Angels (better-angels.org), a growing national movement that was organized after the 2016 election. The name comes from Abraham Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address, when he appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” Better Angels is committed to creating civil and depolarized space between red and blue (red being more conservative and blue being more progressive). There were 150 delegates from all over the country – 75 identified as red and 75 as blue. Better Angels fosters conversations between equal number of red and blue participants. There are always two facilitators – one red and one blue. The purpose is not to convince or convert reds to blues – or vice versa, but to create a safe and in-between space for people to practice civility and even deepen trust. I know of at least one Better Angels conversation that has taken place in one of our congregations, providing people an opportunity to listen and learn across the red-blue divide.
I can’t say I relish every aspect of this in-between time, but I certainly appreciate it. It both frustrates and frees. It prepares us for what is coming next and deepens our faith in the promise – that God will be with us, guiding us into greater awareness and deeper love.