I have spent a lot of time in hallways.
I don’t mean the physical kind that connect rooms in a building – though I suppose I have walked through many of those too – but rather the seasons of transition between two stages of life. Some hallways have looked like waiting on the outcome of a visa application; others have been stints in temporary accommodation while in between more permanent homes or waiting for pending change to become a reality.
Like it or not, hallways are a part of life. No longer single – not yet married. No longer well – not yet diagnosed. No longer employed – not yet in new work. No longer rooted in one place – not yet planted in another. We all pass through these seasons of limbo, so it is not surprising that even the Old Testament Israelites had a hallway of their own: no longer slaves – not yet home.
We refer to their hallway more commonly as the ‘wilderness wanderings,’ when they left their life of slavery in Egypt behind and stepped forward towards the Promised Land, but the wilderness was one big ‘in-between.’ Deuteronomy records a concentrated summary of Israel’s time in the wilderness in the first few chapters and I have found the Lord’s words to his people in their hallway to be both comforting and challenging.
Here are a few of them:
“You have stayed long enough”
Forty years, ten months, and one day. As we discover in Deuteronomy 1, the Lord knew exactly how long the Israelites had been in the wilderness. Not one day of tarrying slipped past his attention, but that is not how we often feel. When being in limbo drags on for yet another day, another week, another month, it can feel like the Lord is ignorant of the agonies of these seasons – ignorant of how the experience can wear a person down and leave them feeling unmoored and adrift. But Israel’s story reminds us that whether you have been in the hallway for four days, three hours and two minutes, or forty years, ten months and one day, he knows every moment and he will not allow it to extend any longer than he intends.
“You have not lacked anything”
Forty years in a desert is bound to make a group of people come face to face with their vulnerability and weakness. The wilderness stories are full of fear, worry and doubt. What will happen? Will the land be good? Why are we in this place? My own seasons of ‘in between’ have confronted me with my inability to control outcomes, often stirring up a sense of fear, helplessness, and instability. It became easy to fixate on my unanswered prayers.
Yet the Lord gently reminded his people in Deuteronomy 8 that, as a father carries his son, so he had carried his people all those years. Their feet did not swell. Their clothes did not wear out. As Israel wrestled with their temporary lifestyle, they became blind to the Lord’s countless ‘small’ provisions throughout their wilderness years. Hallway seasons by nature mean there are situations not yet resolved, questions not yet answered, loose ends not yet tied-up, but even as you wait for the Lord to bring your hallway to an end, ask him to help you see all that he provides.
“Watch yourself closely”
My time in hallways have been some of the messiest times spiritually. Levels of complaining and bitterness I did not think possible were pouring out of me, revealing an ugliness and unbelief in my own heart, about which I would rather have remained ignorant. But maybe that is one purpose of our hallway seasons.
In Deuteronomy 8, the Lord says that he brought his people to the wilderness to humble and test them so they would know what was in their hearts. As we know from Exodus and Deuteronomy, it was not a pretty sight. Their wilderness time was marked by grumbling, anger, outrage, rebellion, distrust, and resentment, which ultimately led to their wanderings stretching on for forty years as punishment. There is a reason the Lord told his people repeatedly to watch their hearts closely, because the temptation to sin against him are strong in the hallways.
In the places where you feel caught in the in between, be alert to spiritual danger, and why not ask a friend to help you ‘put on the armour of God’ (Ephesians 6) as you navigate the path ahead.
Hallways can be hard – harder still when they seem to never end. We may never understand why God allows us to linger there, but we can trust the path he has us on is right.