“Always we begin again.” – St. Benedict
Ever looked back on a year and only saw how you didn’t change?
Ever looked back and saw how your failings were much greater than your change?
Ever only see your struggle and never your progress?
Ever see your dream disappearing in the midst as the sunrise of failure rises?
We all live in the place of what happened. We see ourselves as citizens of the place of the past. Our present being is tattooed with the scars of that place. Everyday we scour our closets for anything to cover up the past and prove to the world we have changed – a smile, an action, a better habit, etc. Yet, the markings of the place of what happened remain. Our life’s passport seems to be stamped with the many visits to that place.
Aren’t we tired of being known by what happened and our failures? Our neck must be exhausted as we have bent it to the ground in order to avoid the condemning looks of others. Our mind has done more character acting than Carol Burnett in order to pretend we are “fine.”
What if we could move into a new place – the place of not yet.
This Strange New Land
If you have ever seen or read The Chronicles of Narnia, you will notice the first remarks of the children upon entering Narnia are of how strange the land looks and feels. How fitting are those comments as we look at our own lives. We also have entered a strange land, but we stand in the liminal space between our old world and the new – our old selves and the new creation we are in Christ. We comment and elaborate on the new creation before us, but hardly do we leave the space between the worlds.
Why? We fear others. Others know our struggles, our pasts, our scars. We feel those things draw the unwanted attention of others like The One Ring draws the Ringwraiths to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. We do not sing of the new creation as much as we sing of our past. Yet, Psalm 33:1-5 tells us to sing with joy (not in solemn, stoic scores). Why? It is because the word of God is true and shows us the unfailing love of God. His word shows us the joy of leaving the place of the old and stepping into the new creation, and living in the place of not yet.
II Corinthians 5:17 declares Christ, through himself, has made all things new. The old has passed away like the night retreating into the depths of the earth as the sun rises bringing warmth and light to a wakening world. He freely gives new life. As Jesus talked to the woman at the well, he promised living water springing up into life (John 4:13-14). How can Jesus promise a new life to us who have scars of the past and are haunted by the ghosts of guilt? It is found in Colossians 1:15-22. Our new life is sealed with the proof of promise, because Jesus is the first born from the dead. His resurrection floods the world with the new life he promises.
This new life is strange. Yet, as Jesus did with Peter inviting him onto the wild waves, Jesus is calling us to leave the liminal space and step into the new creation he has called us to be – to step into the place of not yet.
The Wide Invitation
Many of us have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but we still live in the place of what happened. We see the promise of a new life, a new beginning, a new way of seeing the world around us, and we secretly scoff at it. That place we have always dreamt of seems like a fairytale. Eventually it will end, and our happy endings will darken back into the grim existence we have known.
However, the invitation Jesus gives us into the place of not yet is wide. Matthew 22:1-10 illustrated the breadth of the recipients. The king, in the parable, tells his servants to invite everyone they come across – both the good and evil. Most of the time, we consider ourselves to be on the evil side. Yet, who calls us evil? Do we hold our goodness to the standards of men or God? God wants everyone to be invited to this new life no matter their background or past. All we need to do is RSVP and accept the new life Jesus freely gives us to wear.
God knows who we are. He looks down from heaven. He sees our hearts. He understands us deeply, because he was the one who made our hearts (Psalm 33:13-15). He understands me. He knows all the desires of my heart, because he made me with those desires. He knows sin has twisted those desires. But, his wide invitation to me is a call to see those desires as he had made them and to step into a life that runs in grace after the desires God has given me.
Being Still in the Place of Not Yet
What is the place of not yet? It is the place God is calling us to. It is the moment of the morning where we step into a new day with the past chasing us and the sea of the unknown before us. It is the place where we give ourselves grace as we look to the pillar of fire and be still as God leads us. It is the place we allow ourselves to see God work.
Moses experienced the place of not yet in Exodus 14. The Israelites came to the Red Sea. Their journey came to a halt. Their ears forced their eyes to look back as their past chased after them to claim lives. Moses did not know what to do. He looked to God, and God told him to be still and see the Lord work. Moses stepped into the place of not yet. He gave himself the grace to trust God. Waters split, and the people stepped into the place God called them to be – walking through the middle of the sea. Watch the scene from The Prince of Egypt
The place of not yet is not the destination. It is the place where we know God is moving and shaping us. It is the place where when people ask us, “So, is God done with you?” we respond, “Not yet.” Our story is still being written. The place of not yet is where we give ourselves the grace and space to let God work. We do not constrain ourselves to the opinions of others. Instead, we say, “Not yet,” as God works and our hearts fill with wonder as the next page opens into a new chapter.
Stepping and Resting into a New Place
The place of not yet is a place of beginning. It is a place which gives us the boldness to go before God’s throne to find grace and mercy to begin again (Hebrews 4:15-16). Because Jesus understands our lives, hearts, and struggles, he opens the door to the place of not yet so we may have the grace to always begin again. It is a place of grace to grow and to be shaped.
“Beginning again is permission to be unaccomplished, to be a beginner, to be brand new. More than permission too, a sense that we are right where we should be and that the beginning space is actually a holy space, not just a layover on our way to something better.” – Leeanna Tankersley
The place of not yet is where we can always begin again, because we know God isn’t done with us yet. We know the ending of the story, so we can step and rest in the place of not yet. It is right where God has us. It is a holy place we can thrive in, because it is surrounded by the unfailing love of God as his faithfulness brings the new dawn of a new beginning every day (Lamentations 3:22-24).
As we stand at the precipice of a new year, we think we have two choices – 1) to stay in our past or 2) to strive for that destination of wholeness. Yet, there is a third choice. Are we willing for it to be an option? It is a place where we will need to begin again and again, a place where apologies and forgiveness are asked for more times than we can count, a place where we know God is not done working with us and we can stand to begin again. A new year in that place is better than being haunted by the past or striving for something only God can bring.
It takes faith to step and rest here. Indiana Jones and the last Crusade perfectly illustrates it in this scene – watch here. He couldn’t go back, and he couldn’t leap to the other side. He had to take the path of not yet – the bridge. Each step was small, and he had to give himself grace to get across as he trusted the plan before him.
The place of not yet is one of openness and vulnerability. It will test our faith and expose our lack of faith. We can step into it and rest, because the grace of God is found there. Each day is not a day to beat ourselves up for not being better. Each day is a day to begin again. Each moment is a moment to begin again.
It is in the place of not yet we find the nailed-pierced hand of Christ reaching out to us as his reckless love gifts us the daily grace to always begin again.