September Reflection by LuAnn Roberson Mind The Gap
Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise. ESV
Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not tremble. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. NASB
Hosea 12:6 But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice and wait for your God always. NIV
If you’ve been to London, you’re familiar with, “Mind the gap.” The words are painted on the concrete floors of London's underground transit stations. It is regularly broadcast overhead in a voice that is attended to by first-time tourists, and often easily ignored by the locals, all too familiar with the words.
The phrase instructs passengers to use caution when crossing the horizontal and sometimes vertical space between the train station platform as they board the train. The gap must be assessed and negotiated to safely board the train.
Since “Mind the Gap” caught my eye, I’ve been reflecting on my life journey with God as a metaphorical sequence of train trips. Over time and seasons of life, bound for different locations, each leg has its own "gap” to be minded. Is this the train on which I really desire to travel? The gaps represent space- space for discernment; for stillness, waiting, wrestling, and listening for God’s leading, then choosing to hop on for the next leg of the voyage or wait for a different train.
Viktor Frankl brought depth to these reflections about the gap in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
No doubt, there has been an abundance of stimuli in this chaotic year with many gaps of all kinds that require attending. Loud and often conflicting voices demanding quick responses with overt or covert pressure to board a particular “train.” Perhaps a pause to both name and mind these gaps is in order. A pause that brings the opportunity to practice the prayer of discernment so that my response is one of growth and freedom, as Frankl suggests.
Minding the gap before boarding the train involves first securing the platform on which I stand. Am I standing on God's platform, or that of the world, which quickly draws me into reactions based on human reasoning or emotion? How can I best live in the love of Christ in the world which so often rejects him?
Secure in the love, grace, justice, wisdom, and mercy of God and His unshakeable kingdom, or tossed about by every wind, and the waves of human schemes?
I want to be living out of kindness; forgiving as I have been forgiven, respecting and standing for others' dignity and value, and guided by the truths in the Word of God. I must recognize that both God and evil are present in the world where I live; I am aware of evil, yet remember that God instructs me not to return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good.
The work of minding the gap is prayer. I meet God there- in the gap, to listen, lament, and draw near. It is a place to clarify motives, acknowledge the love, power, and plan of God, and release what hinders me from living out the With- God life, following the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Admittedly, in real life, hesitating on the platform to mind the gap for too long might get you trampled by others trying to board the train while you stand in their way, pondering…Yet an impulsive, thoughtless jump is dangerous, both physically and spiritually.
Minding the gap in a spiritual sense takes time, a willingness to attune to what God is up to, and a desire to follow where God leads, in God’s timing. I am finding it to increasingly be a place of secure trust that God will meet me in the gap and continue to transform me and live through me. Crossing the gap onto the purposely-chosen train is always a risk, but there is a joy in knowing that humble Christ-followers will be beacons of hope and light wherever the train takes us as God leads. May it be true of all of us.
The offerings that follow below might be food for reflection as you pause to mind the gap before you board the train that awaits you.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
"Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete."
“We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but everything is being purified.
My conscience is captive to the word of God.”
Jonathan R. Bailey:
"There’s a great disparity inside me: a gap between my longing and my living. I don’t feel it all the time.
But there are moments, usually at night when I’m tired or bored or disappointed—always when I’m angry—that it surfaces, gnawing and tearing at my deepest desire.
In those moments I wonder if it is possible for that gap to be narrowed.
Can the life I want be the one I actually live?
When I read the longing of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ, the angst of St.Augustine in his Confessions, or the intensity of Teresa of Ávila in The Interior Castle, I discover I’m not alone.
I’m not alone in my longing for Christlikeness, I’m not alone in my inadequacy to produce it, and—most importantly—I’m not alone in finding a way forward. None of us are.
Shedding vice and securing virtue— becoming like Christ—is not something that automatically happens when we become Christians. Moving from stage to stage happens over a long, frustrating, rewarding, painful, and glorious period of time. Christlike character is not something we get; we grow into it."
Mind the gaps, accept the invitation, trust the pace. Don’t hop on the train that dishonors God. Don’t be forced onto a train not meant for you, But when God leads, whatever the cost, jump on with all your might.
Can I identify the “trains” I have ridden this year?
Has my “platform” been modified, abandoned, or secured?
How might I practice prayerful discernment, minding the gap going forward? Will it bring me to change the train I am on?
Bailey, Jonathan The Eternal Journey, Published by Renovare 2020
Frankl, Victor Man’s Search for Meaning, Published by Beacon Press 2006
Luther, Luther's Works, Vols. 12, 24, 32, 34, 51, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002]. cited from matgilbert.cordpress.com
Teilhard de Chardin SJ, Pierre excerpt from Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits by Michael Harter, SJ Loyola Press, 2005