We stay up late to watch a sunset. We watch with wonder & perhaps with sorrow as we end the perfect day or a romantic vacation.
We arise in early morning darkness to pursue a sunrise. We seek just the right viewpoint to embrace the beginning rays of light as they penetrate the darkness before the dawn.
Our image for today is of a sunset in Hawaii. Sunsets in the tropics are rapid. One moment it is light & the next it is dark. The time before dawn; the time before sunrise is dark & unbearably long.
It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn is a familiar saying. Vision is limited. Sounds are muffled. Even with others around us we may feel terribly alone. It takes time to reorient to our surroundings.
We need to find a new navigational system- an internal guidance system to find our way as we wait for sunlight to dispel the darkness.
Into The Darkness
The Natural Demonstrates the Spiritual.
Sunset & Sunrise.
Endings & Beginnings.
The In-between Time
Dark & Fear-filled,
Alone with Stormy Emotions
It is a season when we may feel powerless, fearful & all alone. Emotions, thoughts & questions rule . There is often little opportunity for action or forward movement.
How Do We Survive The In-Between Times ?
We are 2/3 of the way through our journey with the Ephesians. A tiny group of Thirty Something’s are faced with losing their beloved mentor & with taking on the responsibility for feeding & shepherding God’s flock – his church.
The sun has set. The deep darkness of the in-between time has begun.
The storm begins.
- Why? How?
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
Paul was at Miletus, 35 miles from Ephesus. He had sent for the little body of elders to come meet him there before he boarded the ship that would take him to Jerusalem .
Let’s listen to what Paul says.
There is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there.
I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead.
But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you.
Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep.
The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them.
I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock,
So stay awake & keep up your guard.
Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.
Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed.
And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go.
They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly.
The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.
Paul was gone. Their ordinary, everyday lives had been turned upside down.
Sunsets, Darkness & Dawns
How do we navigate the times of sunsets-darkness-dawns?
How do we live through
◦ the grief & loss of endings
◦ The emotions & the questions in the long in-between
◦ The uncertainty of new beginnings
In October, 2012 I experienced a sunset – an ending unlike any I had ever faced before.
Indescribable, unimaginable darkness penetrated every aspect of my life. Everything that could be shaken was shaken.
The dark got darker until January 2014 brought flickering rays of light & hope.
Four months into 2015 a breathtaking sunrise is extinguishing the darkness.
One month before the sunset- the ending I discovered a thirty something author named Jeff Goins. His writings became the guidance system God used to help me navigate the ending- the darkness & the new beginning. That is a story for another day.
For now the titles of Jeff’s four books will become the metaphor for your journey from Sunset to Sunrise; from Ending to Beginning; from Darkness to Dawn.
Jeff’s Books are
Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life
The In Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing
You Are A Writer ( So Start Acting Like One)
The Art of Work: A Proven Path to discovering What You Were Meant To Do
There are all kinds & intensities of endings.
Maybe like the Ephesians you are a Thirty Something who has just been promoted; the boss- the mentor has retired & now you are the one with the brass nameplate on the door that says- Senior Pastor ! Yikes!
Maybe you are the retiree! Going from full tilt to dead stop & you hate golf or quilting!
Most endings are a mixed experience. Our journey through the rest of Ephesians A to Z will be very practical in how to live with Sunsets-In Between Times & Sunrise. Endings, darkness & beginnings. Our journey equips you for the O of Opportunities.
Paul’s letter with it’s encouragement & instruction reminded them of not just what he did while with them. It reminded them of who he was among them. The letter written probably 2 years after Acts 20 is needed because they were wobbling. They had lost their First Love. They had lost sight of their identity – Adopted, Blameless & Chosen.
We also ‘wobble’- struggle with standing firm or moving forward.
Where are you today?
◆ What sunset- ending has Wrecked you?
◆ Talk to Jesus today about the In-Between . Listen for His response
◆ You are loved? Chosen? Adopted? Blameless? ……..? What would living out of your identity look like today?
◆ Ask Jesus to show you the next step on his path for you – From Design to Destiny.