8:16 PM

It was a typical night in the Hebrew camp. Nearly a million souls huddled together on an isolated, desert plain. Their story was unheard of, their future, unknown. An entire people group exiting a nation as one had to be the ultimate mic drop. But where they were headed was what occupied the thoughts of more than one Jewish mind that starry night. They were hardly the nomadic type, this civilization on the move. Fresh out of slavery, they hadn't the slightest idea of how to take care of themselves, especially in those desert wilds. Their very survival was anything but orthodox (pun intended). With water coming out of rocks and bread falling from the sky, they didn't have to think much about where the next meal would be coming from. But it was the pillar of fire that went before them that really held their attention. When it moved, so did they, and when it stopped, they set up camp. Sometimes it stayed immobile for months at a time, but its very presence reminded them, their future was not their own. Their very lives were in the hands of a mighty God. 

There is a word in German that I've often wished we could incorporate into English: "Zwischenzeit." It literally means, "in between time." Life is full of zwischenzeits, those uncertain stops along the road while we look for direction or wait for the call of God. 

Life would be so much simpler if there was a pillar of fire directing us, so much easier if we could physically look ahead and see God's presence there guiding, showing the right way. 

When I look back on the different chapters of my life, I can see that they are written in God's clear, steady hand. I am certain the future will be no different. The choice of what to do in these times, however, is entirely my own. 

While I'm waiting for direction, I can create a golden calf to occupy my time and catch my fancy, or I can focus on the mountain before me, filled with the power and majesty of the Holy Ghost. I can draw near and listen for the still, small voice or draw away and grab the pen out of His hand to write my own version of the story. 

Honestly, zwischenzeits make me antsy. When I'm jobless, I make work for myself. When I've got a decision to make, the drill sergeant in my head starts screaming at me to make it quickly. 

But really, how many of those hasty decisions are good ones? And how much of my busywork is just that, a distraction to make me look occupied and important when I should be listening for the voice of God? As Francis Chan has said, we so often look for God's approval of things that He never even asked us to do. 

Perhaps you're in a zwischenzeit too, waiting on the voice of God before moving forward. If so, you're in good company. Think of David who wandered the desert with a band of outcasts when he knew he was called to be king. Think of Abraham making his way towards an unknown promised land, or Elijah, resting by a brook and getting fed by a raven before making his way forward. Remember Gideon laying out a fleece to test God's meaning about a matter, or Daniel praying near a window looking towards Jerusalem, waiting for the rescue of His people. 

Zwischenzeits can be frustrating or even scary, but they're important, and how we react in these situations shows our mettle even more than in the heat of battle. When everyone in the world has an opinion about who you are and where you should be heading, it has to be your call whether you wait or not. As C.S. Lewis put it, 

"I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait."

And God always shows up just in time, exactly in that moment when we thought we were abandoned or left to our own devices. His timing is never without meaning or purpose, for the real Christ follower knows, it's in these zwischenzeits that He renews our strength. And it's at what seems to be a dead end, that He picks you up and carries you across the Red Sea and into the promised land. In between times are no obstacle to the creator of time itself.

Perhaps your life is going according to plan, or perhaps, like me, you're waiting alone, trying to drown out the voices of a million and one opinions so you can listen for the only one that really matters. Wherever you are, waiting on direction is never wrong. It is only when we hesitate after we've heard the sound of the trumpet that we really get in trouble.There may not be a pillar of fire in front of you, but you'll know His call when you hear it. In the words of Oswald Chambers, 

"Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready." 

In your "zwischenzeit," wait with a readiness for anything He might call you to. Come so close to God that you can hear His heartbeat, let alone His call. Then, just perhaps, that waiting time will become the stop along the way that your heart needed whether you recognized it or not. 


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