The “In-Between”

Brothers & Sisters,

I have good news: it is officially Spring! 

The snow has melted and birds are chirping, the leaves are budding and flowers are blooming, and the children have replaced their boots and coats with flip-flops and bathing suits.

Or at least somewhere those things are happening. . . 

It is Spring. But the felt-reality for us here in the Bold North is a slippery, slushy, sort-of warm, mostly chilly, “Oh no! My basement is flooding!” period between the dead of Winter and the liveliness of Spring. We see the sun and feel its warmth much more than we did a month ago, but piles of snow still cover our yards and the trees that line our city’s streets remain bare. Schools are letting out for Spring Break, but the YMCA’s outdoor pool is still closed for the season. It is Spring. But Winter still haunts us.

God’s Communication Through Creation

From Psalm 19, we know that God communicates something of himself to us through nature:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. 

From the nighttime stars in the heavens to the ever-changing landscape of the daytime skies, God intends to teach us through his creation. Every day and every night, everywhere on earth, he is speaking through nature. Every season reveals something of what he is like and how life works. Every season.

So, what are we to learn in the awkwardness of the “in-between” season? Probably several things as we go through the cycle of looking at God’s word, his world, and our lives. But at the very least, God is freshly reminding us that the Christian life is lived in the “in-between.” As believers, we exist in a constant tension between who God says we are and who we will one-day be. 

Simul Justus et Peccator

Martin Luther summarized the Christian’s tension with the Latin phrase, “Simul Justus et Peccator.” Translated the phrase means, simultaneously righteous and sinner. Luther was communicating that we can look at our lives through one lens and see ourselves as completely righteous and justified because of promises like Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But there is another lens through which we can look and see that we are sinners. As 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The reality is that God has counted us righteous. The felt-reality is that we are sinners.

You see the similarity?

It is Spring. But Winter still haunts us. You are righteous. But your sin still lingers. 

Spring Will Emerge Victorious

Now, here’s the really good news: Spring always conquers Winter. The snow melts, the leaves begin to bud, the flowers bloom, and the birds will freely flutter and chirp again. Likewise, resurrection always defeats death. Always.

True, you are not yet who you will be. But, because of Jesus’s work in your life, you’re not who you once were either. The ice that used to cover your heart has been melted by the Gospel of God’s love. The snow banks of your shame are shrinking, and there’s a garden of spiritual fruit beginning to emerge in their place. Yes, there are days when your body hurts from slipping and falling on the black-ice of sin, but there are also many days that end with you feeling satisfyingly sore from breaking-up the icy paths of temptation. And because Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20), because he has made you a new creation in him (2 Corinthians 5:17), because he loves you and will never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), you have good reason to trust that the struggles and trials of the “in-between” will give way to the eternal Spring when you are with Jesus in glory, at last. 

Nick Aufenkamp