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in-between

The clock on my wall
I am at the stage in my doctoral studies where I am waiting to hear back from my supervisors before I embark on the next big writing phase. It's a sort of limbo; one thing is completed and I am waiting for the next thing to start. Hard to know what to do in limbo sometimes. In this period of waiting to hear from my supervisors, there is a lot of work I could be doing such as reading books and articles which pertain to my research, preparing an article or two for publication, setting up a research trip, and creating a syllabus for the course I am teaching next year (to name just a few projects). And yet, I find it hard to get motivated to do any of these important tasks. I would rather sit outside with the cat, read some fiction, research real estate, or even do laundry and wash dishes. Why is that? Am I just a procrastinator? Perhaps. But I also know that what I do during in-between times like this reveals something about my overall mental and spiritual state.

We actually spend quite a bit of our lives in some type of in-between stage, if you think about it. Waiting in a grocery check-out line, sitting in a theatre before the movie starts, hanging out in the doctor's waiting room, waiting for people to meet us at a restaurant; even driving to work or riding the bus downtown is a sort of limbo.

What do we do with this in-between place? A lot of us kill time, an awfully violent way to phrase it, but the description is perhaps more accurate than we care to admit. If I am bored, restless, impatient, worrying, or aimless during these waiting times, it reveals that underneath my usual busyness, I am not totally at peace. They say that under pressure, who we are really comes out. I would suggest that in times of limbo, the same is true. Those times when an outside force is not exerting pressure on me to perform certain tasks or be a certain place, this is when my natural inclinations take over. And what are my default settings? I want them to be hope, peace, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and goodness.  I don't want them to be boredom, restlessness, aimlessness, impatience, fear, or emptiness.

Last night when I had 30 minutes before an event, I walked around the city and took pictures, appreciating the beautiful city in which I live. I usually bring a book with me so that I can read during the in-between times in life. These in-between activities (reading and taking pictures) fill me with joy and wonder. When I spend time fiddling on my phone with no purpose in mind, I get no such feelings. When I look at others on the bus with critical eyes, I get no such feelings. When I worry about getting there on time, I get no such feelings.

Let me remember that these times of limbo are blessed gifts: times to be rejuvenated, times to enjoy the present, times to think things through, times to pray, times to speak words of encouragement, times to notice the little things, times to give thanks, times to prepare for what is ahead, times to do spontaneous projects, times to sink roots a bit deeper, times to smile at a stranger, times to be amazed at the beauty around us, times to feel sorrow for the brokenness around us, times to receive mercy, times to be still and know that God is God.

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