Last semester, one of my professors came to class with a meditation around the idea of “already, but not yet.” I’ve never found an adequate one-liner that sums up all of Christianity, but this phrase intrigued me. Because it’s about the struggle, the in-between. It speaks of the reality of our dual citizenship. As children of God, we are living in a dialectic.
We are citizens of heaven, yet we reside on earth.
We are already saved but not yet in heaven.
As I juggle college courses and two jobs to make ends meet, finding purpose quite often feels inextricable. Here I am, 21 years old, and I thought life would answer all my questions. Instead, I have more questions than answers. “Already, but not yet” stuck with me. In the same way, I am already treated and acting like a teacher but not yet a licensed professional. I’m caught in the middle, living in the tension.
Christ has already won victory over Satan. He’s defeated, yes, but he hasn’t been thrown into the lake of fire, yet. We’ve got the promise of heaven, but we’re not in Christ’s nearer presence, yet. The eschatological argument that presents itself in this short phrase isn’t anything astoundingly new. Theologians, musicians, philosophers, and the like have wrestled with this existential question since the beginning of documented history. From Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and C.S. Lewis to Mike Donehey, Jon Foreman, and Karl Barth, humanity’s very nature is to be restless.
In Tenth Avenue North’s 2012 album, the group addresses the idea of the struggle. Their title track’s chorus starts, “Hallelujah! We are free to struggle. We’re not struggling to be free.” Because Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the devil, we are free to screw up. It’s inevitable. Yet, Romans 6:1 says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means!”
We’re not struggling to be free. With Christ’s final breath on the cross, as he whispered, “It is finished,” he freed us from the struggle. We find our freedom in Christ, and yet, we await his return.
In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis says, “Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object […] If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”
Are you saying to yourself, “Okay, English, please?”
Here it is: We were made for heaven. God desires to be in a relationship with us now and forever. We will spend our life searching for contentedness, but we won’t truly find our rest until we rest in him. The desires we find in ourselves on this earth are misguided. At best, this world can offer us glimpses of the life to come. In those moments, we can say, “Already, but not yet.”
Let the lyrics of this song marinate in your soul, as you sit in the in-between.
Sometimes I glimpse into the fog
and listen for the song;
Til then, I’m waiting for the day
in the shadows of the dawn.
“Shadows of the Dawn” by The Gray Havens
May we, as sisters in Christ, stand hand in hand as we wait for that glorious day!