Living in Limbo?

No one likes living in limbo.

In every area of my life right now, I am living “in between.” In between this job and that one. This ministry and the next. Living in limbo, longing to move forward.

I have been pruned—hard. I understand that, accept it. I’ve tried to “cooperate,” grow, and look ahead in anticipation to the promised fruit . . .

But there’s a problem.

I tend to focus on the pain of the pruning cut, then jump to the hope of future fruit. But I forget something important: the long stretch in between–

–the dormant period.

In Between

As a dweller of the in-between, I’ve discovered something that has made this long stretch of my Christian walk easier. A spiritual truth God has tucked in a still, unexpected place. Something that stirs the air in this frigid zone and refreshes me. Perhaps it will refresh you, too.

The secret lies in what happens during dormancy. Let’s take a look:

At the end of the fruiting season, a master gardener prunes a vine down to a stub, leaving only a few of the strongest canes. From there he makes a series of strategic cuts just above each live bud that remains. Once severed from the branch’s circulatory system, the buds dry up and a water resistant layer forms on the canes to protect the buds from premature bloom.

This protective layer is vital, for if a bud blooms mid-winter, it will die. Once winter begins, each dormant bud must undergo a minimum chill requirement in order to be “primed” and ready to make new connections to the vascular system in the vine. Only then can it push up and bloom in the spring.

Did you see it? A crucial part of the pruning process involves a prolonged time of interment for each bud.

In Between

Consider the connection between how we may feel about our own seasons of limbo and what happens to the bud during this dormant period:

  • The bud is isolated from the vascular system –  “God has separated me from a living, fruitful ministry . . .”
  • The bud is dried up, dehydrated – “I feel barren, worthless, unable to bear fruit for God . . .”
  • The bud is coated with a water resistant layer – “I am trapped, held hostage by my circumstances, unable to move forward . . .”
  • The bud is prevented from blooming – “Will I ever be fruitful again?”

Has any of this lodged in the hollow of your heart as it has in mine? If so, be encouraged dear friend! This silent stretch, this “dead zone,” is the bridge between the severing cut and the sweet fruit that follows. And we can’t hurry the process–not even a little bit. Our loving, wise God prevents it, for like the bud:

  • We too, will perish in the winter chill if our bloom is premature.
  • We too, must undergo ” a minimum chill requirement,” a period of dormancy that is cold enough, long enough to prepare us for full bloom in the spring.

And though I don’t fully grasp what it all means, I know I’m there–living it.

Just like you.

In the meantime–in between time–let’s quit struggling and allow God to “prime” our “bud,” and produce eternal fruit for His glory; amidst the chilly stillness of the season; throughout the long dark days of each winter month.

While we anticipate the warmth of the spring sun to awaken us to a whole new season of fruitfulness.

What about you? Which part of the “in between” struggle resonates with you?

Photo 1 courtesy of Microsoft Online 
photo 2 credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/whiteoakart/338883140/”>whiteoakart</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
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Comments 12

  1. Thankyou for sharing such beauty in the pruning process. You can’t imagine the fruit that is being born right now in this dormant season that God is doing for you. I have been given so much comfort in your words. God calls, we respond, then the pruning process begins. I have shared your words with others who are in the same place and they are comforted and encouraged as well. Thank you for being faithful in your difficult times.

    1. Thank you, Karen. I know you are familiar with this path. Isn’t God great to use our times of struggle to encourage others? It never fails to amaze and delight me! Praising God He used this to encourage you.

  2. Thank you for this. It reminds me of Oswald Chambers’ quote:
    “Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers….God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes.”

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share the O. Chambers quote with us. It is always so encouraging to see things from God’s perspective! Our thoughts are so geared toward the negative side of things, while everything about God illumines the positive, life giving elements of our day-to-day struggles.

  3. Bethany,

    This blog is sheer poetry and touches my heart. One of your best and most insightful blogs. I plan to print this and put it in my Bible! God is surely stretching your faith, and giving you wisdom to share with others. Be encouraged….I’m seeing God’s fruit in your life even if you cannot.

    1. You are so gracious. I’m praising God that He used it to encourage you.

  4. This was “fun” to read after the talk we had on Thursday night…it made me smile. I’ve always been so captivated by the things in nature that must die in order to produce life. This is such a great description of what occurs during that time. One of the greatest times of growth in my spiritual life was during a time of “limbo”. Can’t wait to see what you write next!

    1. Thanks, Susan. I can’t wait to see what God does next–for both of us. 🙂

  5. Although my basic needs are being met I’m in a sort of in-between time, never knowing what to expect from one day to the next. This post is very encouraging. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. I praise God you were encouraged. 🙂 As I get older, it seems more and more of life is spent “in between.”

  6. The part that resonates most for me as a fellow “dweller of the in-between” (that is an amazing description!) is the dry period. “Dehydrated” is a great term you use–descriptive and visual. And, the periods/stages of limbo you offer remind me of Paul’s years in the wilderness after being blinded by the glory of Christ. Why didn’t Paul immediately begin his ministry? Why go into the wilderness for years? He was waiting on God–God’s will, not his–to begin his ministry to the Gentiles. He was clearly being pruned, transformed and growing in faith. Moses, another great example of being in limbo for a long period of time (shepherd training worked out as intended.) All things in God’s time–when I am dehydrated the most (as now), I count the most on God (when I am weak, He is strong!) Thanks again for an amazing offering of inspiration. Blessings, luke

    1. Great examples of heroes of the faith going through their own dormant seasons. It gives us ordinary folk hope for our own faith journey!

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