There are a lot of people who do not know how to live without excitement, without stimulation. Whether it comes from pleasure – or from crisis – they thrive on activity, on doing things – on solving problems – on adrenalin.
The time that exists between one crisis or another, between one activity or another is regarded by them as dead time, as time that is lost – time that is unimportant, time that doesn’t count.
Even people who are not adrenalin junkies find it difficult sometimes, difficult to face a period of time in which not much is happening, a period of time in which they must wait for a promise to be fulfilled, for an event they are looking forward to take place.
Today’s scripture reading from the Book of Acts tells us how the disciples found themselves in this kind of situation – how they found themselves having to face a period in which they would simply have to wait for Christ’s promise to them to come true.
After the resurrection Jesus visited with his disciples on several occasions. He taught them, he encouraged them, he commissioned them to do a job. Then – on the day of his ascension into heaven when they were anxiously asking him when his kingdom would be established, when the next installment of the divine plan would take place, he tells them it is not for them to know the times or periods established by God – but they should go back to Jerusalem and wait, – wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, – wait for the power they would need to witness to him there, and in Judea and all of Samaria, and ultimately in all the world.
For many, waiting is a dreadful thing. Just ask any child. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Living between times, living between occasions in which all of our minds and hearts and energy are absorbed in affairs of significance can, in fact, be quite wonderful.
It can be – for us – a pause that refreshes – a time in which we gain strength – a time in which we quietly grow and are prepared for that which will come next.
The prophet Isaiah says that:
“those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
In this perspective – waiting is a positive thing, the time between the making of a promise and its fulfilment is a time which is, or can be, highly beneficial to us.
But living in the times between, in those times between one phase of our lives and the next, – between one job and another, – between the time when the first child has married and the last has yet to enter school – between the period when we have lost one dear friend and have yet to find another, these times can be difficult for us if we do not know how to wait in the manner recommended by the word of God.
So how should we live in the times between?
FIRST – we need to remember the times in between are meant to be active times – not passive times; times in which we are meant to work at that which is at hand – rather than at that which is yet to come.
When Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of his disciples to take his place as Lord at the right hand of God the Father an angel visited them and asked them:
“Men of Israel – why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same manner as you saw him go into heaven.”
In the times between, our eyes are meant to be fixed on the present moment God has given us and what it is God wants us to do with it and in it.
We are called to live now in the way God intended us – rather to live in the future.
The disciples heeded the word of the angel who asked them why they were looking up toward heaven — and they returned to Jerusalem as they had been commanded and waited there for his promise to them to be fulfilled.
And while they waited – they devoted themselves to prayer.
Which leads to the SECOND important part of learning how to live in the times between: – namely in those times we are called to live as Christ has shown us how to live – in obedience and in connection with Him and the Father.
When the disciples returned to Jerusalem – they stayed together – in fact they joined themselves with the rest of those who believed in Jesus, with Mary and his brothers and many others, and they sought to be one as Christ had prayed they would be.
They stayed together and they prayed – and in so doing, they prepared themselves for the job Jesus had told them they would do when the Holy Spirit came upon them as he had promised it would.
In times between, people often do take the opportunity to prepare themselves for what is supposed to happen next.
Between jobs they may go back to school,
Between relationships they may enter into counselling, Between seasons of endeavor they may sit down and actually relax and rest so they have the strength to go on.
There are many ways to prepare for what we believe is coming next, but in the end – for those who are seeking to do God’s will and to see God’s promises come true in their midst, prayer is of central importance.
As Jesus told the disciples and to us,
“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you – and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria – and to the ends of the world” Amen.