It’s a pattern that’s been there since the beginning, but it’s taken me most of my adult life to see it.
I am an achievement-oriented person. I love to check things off lists and accomplish goals. In a society like the United States, it’s a pretty common way of interacting with the world. It is no surprise that I, and many others, have brought that way of thinking into the way we read the Bible.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Hooray! We accept Christ and get to check so many things off our lists all at once. Get rid of bad habits—check. Let go of insecurities—check. Find freedom from pain—check. Receive a new life—check. We breathe deeply this hope of the Gospel, and sigh in rich satisfaction at the thought of a different future. We anticipate a path without the struggle we have pushed our way through to get to this fresh air.
It doesn’t take long before we are disappointed. It turns out that though belief can happen in a moment, the emergence of a new life is far from instant.
And so, we wonder . . . have we failed? Did we not do something we were supposed to do in order to receive what has been promised to us?
In the creation narrative, the first thing the Creator does is call forth light from the darkness. After that, God separates the waters, creating not objects or creatures, but simply space. It is not until day three, after the day of space, that the Maker of the heavens and the earth brings life into existence.
In the Exodus narrative, the Israelites are freed from slavery, but they do not go directly from Egypt to the promised land. In between, they must journey through the desert. Though the time they spend there is lengthened due to their struggles with trust and obedience, it was always God’s plan for them to journey through this space between.
In Luke’s version of the calling of the disciples, Peter is disappointed after a long night of fruitless fishing. Jesus firsts asks him to get in the boat and leave the shore, so that Jesus can continue to speak to the crowd that has gathered. It is not until after that space of teaching and presence that Jesus asks Peter drop his nets to receive the miraculous.
In the Easter story, even Christ had a day between His death and resurrection.
I’ve always loved the symbolism of the butterfly. What an amazing transformation from a thing that once crawled on the ground to a creature that soars through the air on painted wings. Yet, it took until this year for me to reflect upon the importance of the chrysalis in that process. The caterpillar emerges as a butterfly only after going through the space required for it to die to everything it once was and grow into everything it was destined to be.
Metamorphosis is not immediate. It takes time and process.
There seems to be a pattern, in the Bible and in the world, of in-between spaces. God seems far less concerned about efficiency than I.
who didn’t bring life into this world until day three,
who sent the Israelites through the desert,
who waited a day before resurrecting Jesus,
who makes each butterfly go through the chrysalis,
seems to see something valuable in the process,
not just the outcome.
I do believe it is possible for us to find lives with fewer bad habits, less insecurities, and more freedom. But that transformation will be neither instant nor complete. It is a process we will go through again and again and again and again as God reveals new things to us.
We have not failed. We just need to change our list:
In-process—check. In-between—check. Receiving new life—check.