Our lives travel on with boring regularity. No beating heart interruptions. Or we’re being swept away in a maelstrom of doubt or disease. No miracles on the horizon. Or maybe we’re in one of those sweet spots of God’s evident blessing. (I say “evident” because he blesses far more than I recognize!) In all cases, the focus is on us. It is as though blinders are attached to our emotional and spiritual eyes much like those placed on horses. In the case of our equine friends whose eyes are on the sides of their heads, blinders have the positive purpose of keeping them running on course. But our blinders keep us focused on the here and now—on the me-and-my-present-circumstances. Our blinders make us unable (or unwilling) to see what God might be doing on another plane.
The Bible relates how after the martyrdom of Stephen and subsequent persecution, the early Christians scattered to places where they could live in relative safety. While they left Jerusalem for safety and “resettlement,” they also continued the fervent living out of their new lives in Christ: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). Philip, especially, sees God’s great blessing as he explains the Christ of Isaiah to an Ethiopian ruler.
Then comes one word that stops us in our tracks at the beginning of Acts chapter 10: Meanwhile… In the middle of great blessing, successful preaching, things on the right track again, here it is: “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats…” Life is running on two tracks: great blessing and horrendous persecution. They, and we, are forced to view this split screen of life, eyes traveling from one reality to another. Questions hound us. Is God still in control? How can blessing and persecution exist together?
The word meanwhile can be translated but, and, also and now; but another meaning catches my attention: on the other hand. This makes me think that while one scenario is happening—one reality existing—something else that seems in radical opposition is occurring.
Saul, on his path to obliterate this new sect which—in his mind—is committed to destroying his beloved Judaism, when this Saul is confronted by Jesus, when he is blinded by the radiant light of God himself, when he is forced to be led by the hand like a child, when sitting without food or drink for three days, what were people to think? Jesus’ followers could either rejoice in God’s intervention (the attitude of some) or believe this is just another trick of the Enemy (the attitude of others).
Then we read an unwritten meanwhile (it’s in the Marilyn Version!) in Acts 9:10: “(Meanwhile) in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias…” God is preparing a man to take a courageous—even foolhardy—obedient step. “Go find Saul. I’ve chosen him. Accept him as your brother. Bless him.”
God is working in all the realities. When we plod through our quiet times with no evidence of God’s presence, when we are more aware of his absence than his presence, what might he be doing in the deep holes of our hearts? When unemployment goes on far past our ability to believe God cares, when love seems dormant or dead, when cancer treatment fails, is it possible there’s a meanwhile reality?
News exploded in the media that 21 Egyptian Christian men had been killed in Libya. When that news reached ministry leaders in Cairo, a young woman who works for The Bible Society of Egypt dumbfounded her director when she said she was “very encouraged.” In explaining her response she said, “I am encouraged because now I know that what we have been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith is not just history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord! When I saw these young men praying as they were being prepared for execution and then many of them shouting “O Lord Jesus” as their throats were being slit, I realized that the Gospel message can still help us to hold on to the promises of God even when facing death!”
This young sister, with blinders off, caught the reality of meanwhile faith.