Christian Living - Blog

Living in the Tension

How one believer looks forward to heaven while remaining on earth.

Carrie Whelpley

People do funny things while they wait, like over-punching elevator buttons and exercising their calves in the checkout line. I even have a friend who keeps a Yahtzee dice game in her cup holder for red lights. 

As an expectant mother, I confess that pregnant women may be the worst. We paint things. We count days. We purge our homes of useless stuff and hurry out to buy new useless stuff in pastels. And we read.

One book informed me that our baby is the size of a banana. This proved less than helpful, as I will not be giving birth to a lanky, cylindrical fruit.

Why do I read these things? I already know all I need to -- on or around June 3, my baby girl will emerge, roughly the size of a baby.

Maybe it’s because this invisible mystery inside me feels too abstract to be real. Or, it might be that I am obsessed with things like measuring progress, feeling in control, being informed, and not wasting time.

Maybe it’s just something to do, because living in between an expectation and a reality is awkward.

In the spiritual realm, theologians have called this state of tension the “already and not yet.”

Consider the following:

  • 1 John 3:1-2 -- John assures us that we are already deeply loved children of God, destined to be like Him, but it is not yet apparent.  
  • Romans 8 -- In verse 9, Paul declares that once we’re in Christ, we already live in the realm of the Spirit instead of the flesh, with the power of the risen Jesus forming new life inside. Then verse 23 has us groaning, longing and hoping again with all creation for the redemption we cannot yet see.

Here we are, on the other side of the cross where Jesus declared once and for all, “It is finished!”

We know that the victory He won over sin’s penalty of death stands irrevocable. And yet we are restless with anticipation, a breathless bride with her eyes to the horizon for her groom to return and complete the promise.

How does one field the unhandy position of standing justified but not fully transformed?

Well, as for me and this silent little stranger, I have decided that we will not despise the waiting.

Like fans of any good book, we will remember not to rush the story but value slow gain, enjoy the unseen, cherish mystery, and hope in the midst of paradox.

We will linger long on the promises until we can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart"!

Eventually, I expect we will even learn to recognize the subtle internal flutters of the Holy Spirit sprouting inside.

How do I wait during times of hope deferred?

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