The Tension of “Now and Not Yet”

We all feel tension no matter what age or stage of life we are in. 

It’s the reality of today and hope for tomorrow, what I call the tension of the “now” and “not yet.” 

Now – The role you play, the relationships you have, the job you do, the opportunities you are experiencing, or the limitations you feel.

Not yet – the dreams you have, the next season of life (maybe it’s dating, marriage, children, finding good friends), promotions, goals for the future. 

When Kristin and I started our ministry career, there was the reality of now: I was working in maintenance, she was babysitting while staying home with our kids. We were volunteer leaders in the youth ministry and had no idea what the future held. We had a lot of “not yet” dreams and goals. Even though that was almost 30 years ago and we’ve come a long way, we still experience this tension to some degree.  

So how do we thrive in the tension of the now and keep excitement for the not yet? As I’ve thought about this question, here are four things God invites us to do in the tension. Depending on your wiring, it’s going to look unique to you. Here’s how I approach them. 

INVITE God into your day. 

Once I am on my feet, I start my day in the Bible. I desperately needed it thirty years ago, and I still do. Daily, I find a verse that jumps out at me. It will often come back into play later that day or week. I also pray every day. I begin the prayer time with these two lines – “Heavenly Father, I invite the Holy Spirit into my day to lead me, give my insight to your heart, words to say, and know when to be quiet. I also ask that you give me wisdom and courage to face every person and situation that is before me today.” Since I started doing this daily a few years ago, I have seen an amazing increase in my ability to live each day knowing God is with me. He is always there, but we must invite Him to join us. 

ASK God to start with You.

My life revolves around people. They are the greatest joys and sources of pain, and this tension is consistent over the years. I stand in awe of many people using their gifts, talents, and personalities. I also stand in bewilderment at some of the things people do that don’t make sense to me. I am wired to be critical and judgmental of others in those moments. The only person I am in control of is me. I must be responsible for my own words, thoughts, and actions. I spend time in my prayer time asking God to help me with those things that I struggle with regularly. I ask Him to search my heart and thoughts and show me where I lack. I ask Him to forgive me of my sins. I repent and continue to move toward words, ideas, and actions that will draw me and others closer to Him. It is a stark reminder of how fragile I am, and it brings a sense of humility when the mirror doesn’t lie. By starting with yourself, you establish yourself in a great mindset to go through your day interacting with others. 

CHOOSE to let your words and actions be positive, honest, and produce growth.

If you are going to do anything with people, you will have to make a choice. The tension is making the right choice. It will bring a positive or negative impact on others. A positive choice will use that decision to move someone forward with empowerment, and a negative choice holds them back or pushes them down. Here is what I focus on daily. Let me be positive by seeing the best in people and situations. Knowing the grace God gives me, let me share that same grace as I spend time with others. Let my words and actions accentuate hope and potential in each situation. I will be honest. I do this while giving value, honor, and respect to others. One of the most significant ways we can demonstrate our love for others is, to be honest with them. Finally, I want to see growth. The only time we aren’t growing is when we quit. When others succeed, we get the benefit of that. 

LOVE Others…no matter what. 

I am at a stage in my life where I don’t want to hold a grudge or offense. Even thirty years later, this is a daily tension. People and situations do things that hurt and wound. I choose to love them anyway. Forgiveness is one of the most vital tools you have for longevity. Those people are still accountable for their actions, and there should be consequences. Forgiveness is an action of the heart…your heart. When you forgive, you permit yourself to move on in freedom.

The tension of “now and not yet” is just as prevalent today as thirty years ago. The “now” moments run the spectrum of exciting and challenging. The “not yet” allows us to dream while asking questions. I have grown more from the uncertainty in both than the certainty I have from each on its own. My hope is you will find the approach that will allow you to thrive in the tension of both.

Join Hands

On May 14, 1988, Kristin and I got married. We were both twenty and ready to tackle life together. As I have instructed couples countless times as a minister, we were told to face each other, join hands, and say our vows to each other. 

One of my favorite memories of our wedding day was the private, “see the bride” moment. This was before “first looks” were popular. One of my groomsmen asked, “Do you want to see Kristin before the wedding? We will shut the sanctuary of the church so it is just the two of you. She can walk down the aisle, and you can have a moment.” We both loved this novel idea and were so grateful to have this time together.

It has been thirty-two years of marriage, and I am more in love with her today. I married a woman of strength, beauty, humility, and character. We have faced so many challenges over the years but continue to make it through. We are quite the team.

One thing that may surprise you is that we rarely pray together. Early on in our marriage, I worked at UPS loading trucks at 4:00 am and went to school, and Kristin had a more traditional work schedule. That started the pattern of my early morning prayer time and hers late at night. We pray together occasionally, but we always share what we are praying about. One thing we do well is we talk every day. Even when our kids were little, we’ve made time each day to connect and often share what God is showing us.

The idea of praying together changed dramatically, starting in 2020. When COVID 19 hit, we had time. We started praying together more often; before an important decision for our kids, when I went back into the office. It took a while to get our rhythm, but it became part of our routine. Praying together became something we both looked forward to and didn’t want to miss. Our prayer time brought strength through one of the most challenging times in our ministerial careers. 

Before this year, when others would say, “I pray with my spouse,” I wouldn’t disagree with them. I just didn’t think we needed it. I was wrong. Now, when we pray together, it is never the same prayer. God is revealing new insights and aspects of the things we pray about. We don’t follow a pattern – only that we do it. Like our wedding day thirty-two years ago, we join hands and invite God into all that we face ahead that day. 

With our schedule moving back to normal and life going 100 mph, we again face the time difference. On the first day that we didn’t see each other because I had a 6:30 am meeting out of the house, Kristin did something amazing. She texted me her prayer for both of us. It works to pray with your spouse over text! When I read her words, I either text back my prayer or agree with an “Amen.” We have done this numerous times, and the connection and agreement are not lost.

In no way do I believe our way is the only way. After all, it took us 31 ½ years to get to this point. As I shared, I felt we were good; we had a rhythm. What I learned is that we have room to grow. We can establish new practices that will move us beyond good. And it’s worth it.

I encourage you to take some step that draws you closer as a couple. Maybe it’s talking every day about the conversations or challenges you are experiencing at work. It could be agreeing to pray about the same things even if it’s not at the same time. Maybe you are where we were, and praying together is something you didn’t think you needed, but you want to try. The opportunity to grow as individuals and as a couple is rich. You will be on the same page as you tackle each day!