How to Make a Mess of Things
If you’ve been to London and taken the tube you’ve heard the "Mind the Gap" recording at every stop. It’s a mantra. That’s because there’s a space between the subway car and the platform large enough to lose a shoe, keys, or your cellphone. I’ve seen it happen.
The idea of a gap is also prevalent in the bible, and it’s not a tiny space found in the London Underground. It’s immense. It’s as large as earth to Mars, only bigger. It’s the tension of the now and not yet. We know God now, but the reality of His fullness is not ours yet. That comes later.
We see this tension in the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16. We see Sarah’s impatience with God to give her a son, so she does what any respectable Jewish woman would do – she takes matters into her own hands. Who better than she to fix the problem? She devises an opportunity for surrogate motherhood. Abraham could sleep with Hagar, her maid, and produce the child that way. (And like any hot-blooded male, Abraham didn’t resist.) Abraham was no better in thinking that perhaps his protégé Eleazer could be the one God would use to continue the line!
Like all of us, Sarah and Abraham struggle with God’s timing. This reveals their doubts about God’s character. Why is he taking so long? It’s been ten years already and nothing’s happened! Can I continue to trust him? Underneath it all is a suspicion of God’s goodness.
Here we see Abraham and Sarah living in the gap between what God had promised them and their unfulfilled expectations.
I see this played out in my life and in the lives of family and friends. We long for close, intimate and satisfying relationships. Instead we live with distance, misunderstandings, and heartache. We yearn for satisfying work. When work gets boring we grumble and complain.
We want glory here and now, but God says not yet, it’s coming soon.
What can we learn from this? Here are three insights:
1) Living in the gap of the now and not yet can tempt us to take matters into our hands. The underlying assumption is that we can fix the problems. But instead we make a mess of things.
2) If we commit ourselves to live in the gap, no matter how unsettling that is, we stand faithful to what God has called us to. We trust God’s faithfulness. We live knowing God is for us and not against us.
3) God doesn’t go AWOL in our messes. He’s there working in the gap. He’s a God who sees and hears and is in the middle helping us navigate through the mess. That’s what he has promised to do. And ultimately he will fulfill all his promises to us. We don’t know how or when, but it will happen.
How do we know?
Because he sent us his Son Yeshua (Jesus) precisely to fix what we couldn’t fix ourselves. It was God’s idea to send him. Yeshua willingly came to live a perfect life in obedience to God’s laws in our place and then to die a horrible death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
Jesus is God’s promised Messiah. Because of what Jesus did, there is no longer a gap between God and us. Jesus closed it by his own sacrifice.
If God fulfilled that promise, he will fulfill all the other ones, too.
That’s why we can live in the gap patiently and wait for God to reveal the glory our hearts long for.
Question: What are some of the ways you take matters into your hands while living in the gap?