The Path of Spiritual Growth:
The Grace of the "In-Between"
When moving from a space of knowledge to one of belief on a path of spiritual growth, new habits may feel like playing pretend. Affirmations can feel downright fraudulent. The life you desire can feel so very far away from your current circumstances.
Welcome to what I call the “in-between.”
In-between shows up throughout our lives in different ways. For example, going from single to a relationship. Marriage to parenthood. Parenthood to an empty nest. Working to retirement. Golden years to death. Even death itself is an in-between.
From a big-picture view, life’s one big in-between from birth till death, with lots of ‘tweens in the middle. Each is another stage to pass through with lessons to be learned. This netherworld between our starting point and where we’re headed is rich with wisdom. Even the state of being is an active state of acceptance and surrender, of learning and growth.
Stages of Rebirth
In essence, these are all varying types of rebirth—stages of growing, changing, (and sometimes) healing. Sometimes it’s one of discovering and uncovering parts of ourselves long-hidden, much like shedding skin, which is often a painful process. Nothing seems to quite line up. So close, but yet . . .
Fans of Charmed may remember the episode Once Upon a Time. A little girl is protecting a fairy from trolls, but because others in her life have grown up and no longer see as a child, the trolls are safely hidden from their view. “Tween places” such as doorways and windows, neither in nor out of a room or place, is where the trolls lived. Midnight, the space between one day and another, is the biggest in-between of all. In this space, the entire world becomes a ‘tween and danger’s everywhere.
Lately, I’ve been living in-between—in between mother and an empty nest, in between careers (and always in between clothing sizes). I had children when I met my husband, so our relationship is in-between parenting and being a couple for the very first time. Some ladies will relate to another in-between, perimenopause, the space in between fertility and menopause. Through it all, I straddle the space between wounded and healing.
But the biggest ‘tween I face is between my current reality and the future I see so vivid in my mind’s eye. There are moments I take a tentative step forward only to pull back in fear. Those are the most painful. I look across the chasm and see the other side clearly, but it’s so far away. The ground where I stand is barren and dry. Across the expanse, I see lush green grass and beautiful trees. Sounds of nature waft from the distance.
Between where I stand and the nirvana on the other side is a simple, rope bridge. It resembles a tight rope with two flimsy strings for handholds.
And I’m afraid of heights.
Far below is a rushing river with lots of rocks. The big, scary kind. I approach the bridge and catch a glimpse of what lies below and pull back in fear. With my dream in the distance, the ground beneath me feels more barren than before. It has nothing to sustain me. To live, to fully live, I must get across.
Until I cross the bridge, I will stay small.
In-between can be like that. Between our current life and the one we dream of are those moments when fear hijacks our focus and we can’t see beyond the circumstances in front of us. The world goes dark and the light’s nowhere to be found. Ego becomes the quintessential helicopter parent. “Be careful! You might fall!” Its motives are to protect, but the fear it instills only serves to cripple.
In those moments, we forget that falling down’s a necessary part of growth. We forget the light that lives within each and every one of us. These finite human bodies house the infinite, but in those moments of darkness, we forget who we are.
The in-between is the world of the unknown, which in and of itself is enough to make it uncomfortable. Doubt and fear arise in this place. We question our direction, our worth and our guidance. Dark nights of the soul become abysmally long.
I want to expand. To grow and heal. To cross the bridge.
After I do and chance to meet another soul staring hungrily across the expanse in front of them, wanting so badly to reach the other side, I can hold out my hand and say, “I’ll show you the way across.”
The biggest ‘tween is the space of your current circumstances and the life you see clearly in your mind’s eye. Here are a few suggestions to help you navigate this space:
If you don’t have a gratitude practice, get one.
Just like yoga and meditation, an affirmation and gratitude practice is essential to your spiritual, mental, and emotional health and well-being.
It isn’t hokey or pointless (though it may feel that way in the beginning, much like wearing clothes that are too big). Don’t worry, you’ll grow into them. Because the thoughts and beliefs you’ve been wearing are not your truth, but they’re all you have known up to this point. Changing thought patterns and beliefs take time. Give yourself grace and compassion as you grow.
Learn to surrender.
Surrender’s a necessary part of the in-between. Surrender isn’t giving up. It’s allowing forth that which is trying to be born into our lives. It’s taking action on what we can and releasing what we can’t.
Surrender is letting go of the outcome and trusting in something bigger than us. A mindfulness or meditation practice is a key component of maintaining balance between the two.
Above all, you must love and forgive yourself.
On the path to healing and growth, learning to love and forgive the self is usually the hardest lesson. To find peace in your current circumstances as you create the life you desire, both self-love and self-forgiveness are critical.
So often when we think of forgiveness, the focus is on someone who hurt or betrayed us. But what about you? What old behavior are you still beating yourself up for? Where are you withholding love from you? You can’t do the work you came to do if you haven’t looked at yourself first and found acceptance. Changing the world’s an inside job. Whether it’s leveling up your career, loving those you are called to love, starting a business, or all of the above, it all begins with you.
When seeing the in-between from a place of limitation and all that can go wrong, it’s undoubtedly a scary place to be. In reality, the in-between is the gap where infinite possibility lives. Instead of asking what could go wrong, ask what’s possible from a place of infinite love.
After all, the infinite is your true nature.