The Beautiful In-betweens
By April McQueen
The in-between times create the core definition of our character and who we are when sickness, loss, and loneliness rudely enter uninvited, set up camp, and stay a while. The “in-betweens” are many in the average life. Between childhood and adulthood. Between graduating from school and starting to work. Between dating and marriage. Between marriage and parenthood. Between work and retirement. Between life and death. The lattermost is something we all must face with those we love and with ourselves.
We may face the “in-betweens” that we encounter either alone and depressed or surrounded with the support and love of friends and family. Now I am part of that necessary, positive support for others. But now I also need support and love. I give love with the hope of a reciprocal response yet often the return is empty of human tender love and care. However, mine is an abundant spiritual universe that will not leave me empty of Our Lord’s loving kindness, peace, and provision. Close relationships can get especially rough during hard times no matter where they fall along the spectrum of the “in-betweens”. God is my source of love. Love of others is my mission.
To be relied on forces me to become strong for those who are counting on me. With this strength comes brokenness on occasion. I need my faith now more than ever before. I choose to sacrifice my comfort to comfort another in their health struggle to endure past the point of breaking to continue the fight for life for just one more magnificent moment, meaningful minute, happy hour, or delicious day…at least for now. Who knows how long this in-between period will last, what it will become, or when beauty will return?
No one mourns when spring blossoms fall and fade to bare tree branches. No one celebrates how well those branches hold up through the winter season. It is assumed that in a spring of second chances, their beauty will return to appreciation as that beauty rains down all over the place. It is good and natural. It is cyclical. It is the litany of living, dying, and rising. In comparison, our seasonal changes are a hymn of humanity, and if we are blessed, can be expressed with the dignity of the divine and spiritual release.
The feeling of exile to a forced solitude of suffering during profound physical or emotional change can be lonely, however. Choosing solitude or wanting to be alone is different. In that choice is personal mercy, self-compassion, and grace. When the solitude of suffering is beyond your control, like with a decline in health, the season of pain reigns for what seems like forever until the season is over.
Sometimes being in the middle, the in-between, is the best practice for being in the present moment. I can follow the ups and downs of good days and bad days. I can rest in quiet joy when I realize that the in-between is beautiful. An exuberant dance of my spirit can join with the Holy Spirit inside and feel comforted. I am living for quality moments of strength for my journey. I lay my sadness at the foot of the cross, the apex of compassion. Then something beautiful happens. Hope lightens any perceived, temporary burdens with their transformation into an amazing gift and their evolution into an example of sacrificial Christian love. Such is my path. Such is my purpose.