We’ve all been there and will be there again…the borderlands. It’s that place between where we were and where we’d hope to be. Some may call it a season of waiting, the in between, a lonely, often frustrating place. Often the phrase that is uttered in the borderlands is, “I thought by now…” We made plans, we had aspirations and life doesn’t seem to be cooperating. Or it could be that an unexpected event threw us into the borderlands. We were progressing, things were moving forward and then all of a sudden we wonder, “how did I get here?” The issue is not how to avoid being in the borderlands. Although I do believe we can reduce the amount of times we end up there, we can’t eliminate those trips altogether. So we must wrestle with what we do when we find ourselves there.
First off, I believe we need to take off the table our natural tendency. The number one thing we all do when we find ourselves in the borderlands is try to escape. And often our escape methods are less than honoring to God. Some of us go into serious control mode, manipulating circumstances and people to either get out of the in between or give ourselves the mirage of control over something since we can’t control our current location. Some will choose to escape through distractions whether through substance, busyness, workaholic tendencies, or relational drama. Some try to escape by dwelling constantly on our circumstances, talking to anyone who will listen and often spiraling into a place of depression or severe anxiety that begins to affect all of life, instead of just the area where we’re waiting. It’s critically important that we eliminate these options and only choose God’s direction.
Secondly, we must follow God as we go through (rather than escape) the borderlands. There is actually a lot written about life in between in the Bible. The Psalms are filled with laments and cries of those in the borderlands. The reality is we need to seek God in the midst of it and not just ask Him to get us out, but to ask Him to take us through. We must remember His promise of His continual presence with us. We must ask Him to teach us what He wants us to learn in the midst of this time. We typically don’t know how long this time will last and so we want to make sure we use it to the best of it’s potential. What I’ve seen through my own times in the borderlands is that I’ve grown significantly through them. I believe this happens primarily because that’s the number one question I ask of God: “how can I grow through this?” or “what are you trying to teach me by letting me be here?” or “what aspects of my character can be transformed through this?” I’ve found that simply changing my perspective has allowed some of these waiting times to feel a little more purposeful. I guess it’s not always true, but sometimes I wonder if God allowed me to enter the borderlands because there is something “off” in me or there is some unrealized potential that God wants to work on in me. And so essentially, what I try to do is let the borderlands have their intended effect. I sometimes I wonder (hopefully), “maybe if I could learn what I need to learn or change what I need to change that God will let me out.” I know that thinking is a little off, but it’s the pragmatist in me. Because the reality is that often there are things we can’t learn without the time and there is no short cut. However, I still feel we can’t go wrong by shifting our focus onto, “what is God wanting to do with this time/ experience?” And by asking that question instead of “how do I get out of this?” I think we’ll find the borderlands a lot more purposeful and powerful in our lives.
Lastly, I want to say, the borderlands are never easy. I don’t enjoy them but I’ve come to see that there are things I can learn there that I couldn’t learn anywhere else. To be completely honest with you, most of the times for me it’s been a priority issue. I’ve come to prioritize something other than God in my life. And God graciously allows me to go for awhile this way, but eventually, if nothing changes, I need to spend some time in the borderlands to remember what really matters, and who’s direction and priorities need to be mine. I’m not sure what you will learn in your own borderlands or how you will grow, but I know God loves you so much and I believe if there was another way for you to learn the same thing, He wouldn’t have you there. His love for you is driving Him to keep His promise of purifying you, making you holy and freeing you from the things that will take you down.