There’s a place I remember from childhood that is approximately a metre squared and can be found at the end of two adjoining roads. Amongst friends we used to refer to this small section of real estate as ‘no-man’s land’. Whilst it lay between two street signs it belonged to neither one. If we straddled our legs from one side to the other we would proudly declare that finally, we could be in two places at once. However, being neither fully in one street or the other turned out to be more novel than practical as having one foot in both streets allowed the opportunity to do little other than stand still.
Perhaps the absence of regular blog posts over recent months can be accredited to the navigation of our own ‘no-mans land’. We’ve made some key decisions as a family over the past year that have propelled us into a transition period. Reaching an ambiguous crossroads we have had to redefine, rethink and revaluate what’s important to us as we move forward. A process which takes time and is easier to type than do.
It’s an odd feeling to find yourself in life’s ‘no-man’s land’. To a soldier, the term ‘no-man’s land’ refers to a piece of unoccupied territory that few dare to enter for fear of the uncertainty that lies within. Stepping out in faith often sounds more glamorous and adventurous in concept than it actually turns out to be when walked out, and almost always leads to some kind of ‘no-man’s land’. To venture into unchartered territory is daunting and inconvenient and sometimes lonely. To leave the comfort and perceived safety of the known takes courage, and not everyone will understand the reasons for your venture, or be willing to come with you. As is often the case when daring to step into the unknown, our own in-between season came with neither clear direction nor defined timeline. Living in a culture that is constantly bombarded with information and glorifies busyness, it can be disarming to find yourself temporarily at a standstill whilst in search for clear direction.
What I’ve discovered is that ‘no-man’s land’ can be an uncomfortable place to inhabit. Yet, as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe it is necessary to enter if we wish to make any type of change for the better of ourselves or others. As disruptive as it may be, it can be significant, as lonely as it may feel at times, it can be illuminating. On the other side of ‘no-man’s land’ lies new territory to be taken and new freedom to be attained. If we commit to the process of allowing ourselves to temporarily belong to nowhere, we can find the freedom to choose where it is we wish to eventually settle.
We’ve been navigating this area for a while now, and are hopefully nearing the end of this particular journey through the unknown. There have been lots of things learnt, some ideas challenged, a few things left behind, and much gained. At times it’s been exciting and full of hope and at others, it’s been confusing and overwhelming. The intricate details of our expedition are personal to us and no doubt mostly irrelevant to you but there are some anchors that have kept me going. The following nuggets have lifted my head and helped me to travel through the void rather than get lost in it.
- Find joy, it brings strength. Amongst change and uncertainty, it can be difficult to find joy and easy to see chaos. It requires practice. Joy is a plumb line and perspective giver. I try and think of three things daily that I’m grateful for. This keeps my eyes up, my focus forward and my heart grateful. Each day is a gift and I’m learning to treat it as such. See my previous post written about joy here.
“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8 v 10)
- Deal with what you know and don’t dwell on what you don’t. Overthinking and over-talking allow worries to fester. Worry blocks faith and feeds anxiety. Plan for what you know and have faith for what you don’t.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 v 31 – 33)
- Take one bite at a time. An ancient African proverb asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time.” When our only focus is the large elephant ahead of us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to walk away. Any change, of lasting significance, has to be dealt with one small bitesize piece at a time. Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread because He knows better than we know ourselves. Tackle ‘no-man’s land’ one bite and one day at a time.
“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6 v 11)
- Trust is a doing word. Trust isn’t passive, it requires courage and practice. When all else is swirling in the storm, there is one in Whom our trust will never be misplaced.
“LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84 v 12)
- Sometimes you have to lose to gain. Not a weight loss slogan, although it could be. Transition requires moving from one thing to another which often means leaving something or even someone behind. Fear of letting go is possibly one of the greatest inhibitors to change but a closed hand is not able to receive a new gift. It’s not always easy and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but with wisdom and care shedding some things can be the greatest liberator.