Saturday, April 14, 2012

We Live in Limbo - Becky

Something I appreciate about Nicaraguans is that they will eat a fruit at any stage during the ripening process. For example, they will eat mangoes when they are soft and sweet (which would be the norm for me), but they especially like them when they are hard and tart, mixed with vinegar and salt. There is another fruit here called a jocote, which can be eaten when it is green, yellow, or red. The texture and flavor for each color is very different, but each is perfectly acceptable here. Fruit is something they have in abundance here while they may not have as many options for other kinds of food, so they have learned to work with it.

This attitude is something that they apply to other aspects of life as well. In a country where most of the people are working with what we would consider to be less than ideal conditions and resources, they "make do." There is no point in being picky about their preferences because they probably won't get their preferences anyway. (This is not to say that a child won't complain to his/her parents about the food on his/her plate, but I am talking about the attitude of the culture in general.) Even if there is the possibility of getting something better in the future, it takes so long for anything to happen around here that they just deal with whatever they currently have. (People may not have much money, but they have plenty of time.)

Even though I have never personally experienced true poverty, I think I can relate to the people here in some ways. As far as having to make do while we wait for what we really want, Tommy and I have been "in limbo" for pretty much our entire relationship. (Yes, I know that the phrase "in limbo" is not the same as the game in which you maneuver under an ever-descending stick, but when I think of the phrase I always get the song stuck in my head.) We waited 3 1/2 years to get married as Tommy paid off his debt and I looked for a job. We lived in a cheap apartment for 4 1/2 years, the last two of which were spent looking for and trying to make a deal work out on a house. We finally got our house and were looking into getting a dog and, eventually, having a child, but then our economic situation changed and we had to wait on those things too. Once we made the decision to move to Nicaragua, we waited for what seemed like forever for someone finally to rent our house. Now that we are here, it took us a while to find a house that we wanted, and we are still waiting while the house is being completed.

But, that's okay.

I was feeling frustrated the other day, thinking about all of the good things that we can't do yet because we are not in our house yet (having our Nicaraguan friends over for dinner; starting a regular Bible study; as well as other, various "relationship-building" activities—also, having some actual privacy when we want it). The feeling of being in limbo was there yet again. Then it struck me that we have ALWAYS been in limbo ...and it has been okay.

In fact, the whole time we have been feeling like, "If we can just get [x], then everything will be okay," we have had exactly what we have really needed at the time. The temptation is always to rest our hopes on whatever the "next thing" is and to feel anxious, like we're not really complete because we're only in a "temporary" situation. But, first of all, what if the thing that we're waiting for never comes? Will all of the "life" that we spent waiting have been wasted? Second, is the thing that we're waiting for really going to fulfill us anyway? Sure, it may make things nicer, but I can say from experience that no matter how much I have gotten in my life (whether physical things, relationships with people, "better" situations), I have always wanted more.

The truth is this: Resting our hopes on the "next thing" doesn't work. If we really want to have a life that feels "fulfilled" and to feel "okay" in whatever situation we're in, we need to hope in something that never disappoints. The only thing that fits the bill there is God. What I mean is that (for example), rather than feeling like we can't really start our ministry until we have our house (even though, hopefully, it will be easier to do so with the house), we should feel satisfied in the fact that God has us exactly where He wants us right now. If our trust is in HIM instead of in the thing that we're waiting for, we will ALWAYS have exactly what we need in every situation. We can also trust in His timing that it is exactly what it should be. I have seen friends go through the long, emotional process of adopting a child. I know that some things are VERY hard to wait for. But, if we are trusting in God through the whole process, we can have peace that passes understanding, and, if we allow ourselves to "rest" in Him, we can even have the ever-elusive patience.

I think this is very important for all of us to grasp because, if we look at humanity and all of time as a whole, there is NEVER a time when ANYONE ISN'T living in limbo, really. Until our physical bodies die and those of us who are in Christ go to be with him, we will be living our whole lives in limbo. Romans chapter 8 implies (at least by my interpretation) that even the rocks and the trees are frustrated by existing in an imperfect, temporary state. First, here are verses 18-25:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

I definitely know what it feels like to "groan inwardly." The good thing is that God provides for even this situation, as we read next in verses 26 and 27:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Being "in accordance with God's will" is the key to this whole thing. We know what we want, but God knows what we need. In fact, the next verse, verse 28, sums up the reason why there is no need to worry or grow anxious in ANY situation:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God has everything covered. There may be things that we wait for expectantly, and those things will hopefully be blessings to us once we receive them. But, even RIGHT NOW we have exactly what we need. We read in 2 Peter 1:3:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Someone who understood this concept was the Apostle Paul. He says of himself in Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Speaking of being "well fed," I love the scene from the movie "Annie" where Miss Hannigan talks to the orphan children about their lunch:

Miss Hannigan: "And we're not having hot mush today."
Children: "Yay!"
Miss Hannigan: "We're having cold mush."
Children: [groan]

Some days we are just stuck with "cold mush." There is something else that we really wish we could have, but we don't have it. This could be something as important as waiting to adopt a child or something as trivial as wanting our fruit to be of a certain ripeness. This afternoon I was hoping for a sweet, juicy mango, but the vendors in the market were only selling mangoes that were either way over-ripe or totally green and hard. Taking my cue from my friends here who have learned to "make do," I went with the green mangoes ...and it was okay. I would prefer to be living in a house right now instead of in the mission ...but it is okay. If my love and trust is in God, everything else will "work for the good." In fact, it is already good, just not in the way I might want.

What things are you waiting for? What do you do when you don't get your preferences? Does it help at all to know that God is in control? Do you ever feel upset that God is "allowing" things to be the way they are? What thoughts help to encourage you in that situation?



  1. Becky, I love this. I'd like to say that I'm with you here, but the truth is that I'm horribly bad at limbo. Even that brief time (just under a month) in the fall where we didn't know where we were going from SC, just about killed me. And it's not even big things. I hate the idea of remodeling my house, not only b/c of the cost, but because of the limbo of having my house under construction. Yes, it's that bad! That's why you are such a good example to me; I am always working on being satisfied with whatever stage of life I'm in. I think that's why my blog spends a lot of time talking about living purposefully and "to the full"--because I naturally struggle so much with wanting that "next" thing to make my situation better.

    I see the futility of such desires in my kids, especially Luke. When Gaga is in town, he gets whatever toy he wants...and it's amazing how quickly the joy over that toy is lost, and he starts looking for the next thing. I have pointed this out to him (repeatedly), but it's a hard practice to shake. It is for ME, so I know it is for him. With me, it's not usually material, though, but circumstances. (Right now, the temptation is to say, Things will be so much better when I have real FRIENDS here, like friends-friends, you know? It takes me so daggone long to form deep connections with people. Most of my good friends at Summerville came at least a year after Luke was born. So that was, what, four years after I got there? Ugh. I can't wait four more years:). But anyway, I have to constantly remind myself that, like you said, we have everything we need to serve God where we are now. And even though I don't have those deep friendships here yet, I have great ones from SC. And I also am SO thankful for the blog connections, especially with you. Your comments are always so encouraging--mainly just the fact that you ARE commenting, but also in the actual things you say:).

    Okay, I've rambled on for way too long, and I'm not even going to read over this. So regard these as the unedited, unexamined thoughts that they are:). Love you!

  2. Love you too, Kim! :) And, no apologies necessary for a long, rambling comment. That how I like 'em. :) I guess it goes back to the fact that neither of us likes "small talk" anyway, and for that reason and others I feel like we play off of each other's thoughts very well. I know I am in a place in my life where I crave that kind of interaction for both the spiritual "meat" and the social connection. (Oh, and THANK YOU for being so faithful with putting up your blog posts in the first place. I am trying to get better about posting things here, but for the times when I am slacking I am grateful that you keep things rolling on your end.)

    As far as being "in limbo," even with all of my "patience" (all of which comes as an undeserved gift from God), I understand how you feel. I still "groan inwardly" in situations where I have to wait, and I get irritated and start complaining. But, because I have been in so many "temporary" situations and have seen how God worked them out for the good, I have examples to look back on to remind me that all of my complaining is fruitless and unnecessary (though we all need to vent sometimes). I can relate about wanting "real friends." Like I said in my comment on my previous post, I do have my team and my new Nicaraguan friends, but the language barrier makes it take SO MUCH LONGER to develop real, deep friendships here. (It is good motivation for learning Spanish, though.) :) For me, this is the first time I have EVER lived anywhere outside of the Charleston area, so this is the first time I have had to start from scratch with my friendships. Again, like you, I am so thankful for the Internet which keeps me connected to friends I already had. But, yeah, I know what you mean about wanting "real friends" that you can see face-to-face.

    Here's a thought for you, though. If your good friends at Summerville didn't come until after Luke was born, maybe the fact that you already have two kids will speed up the process. I have heard many mothers say that having kids gives you an instant point of connection with other mothers. I bet especially once you start homeschooling and looking into extracurricular activities for the kids, you will run into other mothers who also need friends. (Just a thought.)

  3. Becky, I love how you are describing that now-and-not-yet aspect of living in God's kingdom! Maybe it's because I've been at this life thing for a while longer than you (and Kim too!), but I don't get as caught up in the limbo outlook on life. I'm where God has me now, and I'll be where he takes me next. That's all right with me.


  4. Tim, it's good to know that it's possible to have a different perspective in time. However, I wonder if it's not just an age thing but also a male/female thing. Men seem to be a lot more "chill" about this stuff sometimes.