We’ve been talking about life in the in-between—the journey between stepping out towards something and stepping into its fulfillment. That place is raw, real and hard. Personally, I get so focused on the end result that I grow frustrated and impatient in the middle. The end is my motivator, the source of drive that keeps me pressing onward. When the middle drags on, I tend to drag my feet and my attitude. But the more I wander this in-between, the more I look at those dusty desert-roaming Israelites, the more I am convinced it’s not the destination God’s after, it’s the process.
“Oh, sure” you think to yourself, “I knew that.” So did I. But living in that in-between is a whole ‘nother thing. Let’s be real, wandering this wasteland feels futile. Like a cloak of obscurity and unimportance, the middle feels invisible, it can even block your sight of the promise.
But it’s the middle that matters. This in-between is not a wasteland, it’s a greenhouse.
In my curiosity about the wanderings of the Israelites, I looked up the names and meanings of all their campsites. Yes, all of them. (I’m sort of a nerd, just smile and nod.) And I discovered somewhat of a pattern-which shouldn’t surprise me. God wastes NOTHING. Not. One. Thing. Never is a single moment wasted in your life, especially not the middle. The middle is where all the living happens. For Moses and the Israelites all those decades wandering the desert weren’t wasted in punishment either. (And just in case you’re curious, there’s a nice consolidated list of campsites in Numbers chapter 33.)
The Israelites followed the Lord’s presence through each and every campsite. Some were long stays, others just a few nights. And each time I read about the next place I imagined the average sojourner staking their tent and resettling their belongings. Each place a new set of sounds and smells. Each spot holding different dangers and risks. Each a brand new host of benefits and expenses. Every stop a marker worth staking their tent pegs. I won’t list them all-but here’s a few.
From the Red Sea Israel went out into the wilderness, uninhabited land. Wandering the Desert of Shur (which means “wall”) until they came to Marrah. The place of bitter water. Check out what God does there in that rancorous place. (Exodus 15:25-27.)
From there God leads them to Elim. Elim is an oasis whose name means 70 trees and 12 springs of water. After Elim they move on to the “Place of Thorns.” Followed by a place called “knocking” and another place called “I will knead.” You would think they’d get a reprieve, but the very next place is Rephidim. A place in the desert where a major battle ensues, but Rephidim means “rests or stays.”
On and on this list goes.
From “pomegranate” and “whiteness” to a place called “ruin.” From “beauty” to “terror”. “Sweetness,” “fertility” and “bond” to the “hill of crickets.” Man, sometimes I think I live on that hill.
The Israelites walked a very real journey. In every new place they’d set up camp, unpack their things and dwell right there in whatever God had for them. No matter what it held, they pitched their tents and waited on the Lord. With each hammer of the tent pegs they drove their faith roots deep and learned the voice of God. In every turn they witnessed His provision, His protection and His presence. In the barren, desolate camps of hardship and the vibrant oasis’ of plenty—God encountered them.
This ebb and flow of wilderness to wonder, desperation to celebration, dry to plenty, wasn’t just a maddening cycle of wilderness walking. God was doing something, something bigger than just getting them from point A to point B. The value of the promised land was actually found in the journey it took to get there. The wilderness made them people of promise.
And our dreams, our promises, are no different. Whatever you dream of— be it a home, a baby, a job or position, an achievement, a pant size… an opportunity—no matter what it is, this place of waiting, these moments in the in-between, they matter. This is your greenhouse for promise.
Keep walking. Keep pitching your tents. Soak it all up. Your promise is here.
AND!!! Join me this Friday morning over on my Facebook Page to chat about Letting Go. Click the pic below to get right to it. (Follow me there and you’ll get notified when I go live!)