No longer, but not yet

May 9, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 10
Phil Wagler |

I was engaged for four months before the big day. Engagement is an interval in time determined by things that are no longer and things that are not yet. The engaged are not really single, but not yet spouse. My experience of engagement was of a time in between. It involved longing (hey, I’m a guy and I was longing). It involved work (and a wedding takes a lot of it . . . or at least that’s what my fiancé told me). It involved intentionally parting with the past, while not quite being able to step into the future. And it was a time that contained the moment of truth.

Hannah Arendt, the late political theorist, describes what we know to be true, but don’t particularly like to experience. History does not lie. History—and our own experiences of times like engagement—reveal that the intervals of confusion in which what we have known is no longer, but what is yet to be is not yet, are precisely the seasons in which what is most true is revealed.

The Bible tells many such stories and reveals God’s faithfulness and truthfulness in those lands in between. Israel’s slavery in Egypt was a long interval that contained a moment of truth: they were a people of the covenant. The generation of wandering in the wilderness was a no longer and not yet, but it contained a moment of truth: God was serious about making for himself a people. Israel languished in exile, a time of corporate identity crisis that contained a moment of truth: God wanted a people for the sake of the world and would do what it took to awake them to it. The world waited between the time of the prophets and the birth of Christ, a four-century gestation that contained a moment of truth: God waits for just the right time to be revealed with full disclosure.

We also live in a land in between. We live between Jesus’ first appearance and his final coming in glory. He is the way, the truth and the life in this messy, hopeful interval. Given that we continue to be part of the shifting sands of culture and history, it is not surprising that we experience times that baffle, in which we are called back to the One who is the truth of every moment, no matter how unsettling.

Are you and yours in a time of no longer, but not yet? Do you find yourself in the mysterious, miserable interval as the actors and witnesses who must become aware of the truth contained in the moment? Many believers, along with their churches and organizations, are these days. Confusion abounds because what once was seems gone forever—even as many fight to recapture seemingly lost ground—and what is yet to come is a strange and foreign land where we don’t understand the language or the maps.

Isn’t it exciting? Many don’t think so. But let’s look at it another way. We are privileged—yes, privileged—to walk this historic interval where Christendom is a tourist attraction and the cultural trajectory is towards a world we’ve come from, but never been to. That’s not spin. It is truth. It has always been the actors and witnesses of the unsettling intervals between the no longer and not yet who have the privilege and responsibility of patiently and obediently anticipating that moment of truth when God reveals a new thing.

Phil Wagler ( has been living the interval as an interim pastor in Surrey, B.C. He is the author of Kingdom Culture: Growing the Missional Church.

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