Many years ago I proposed an idea for a skit. It was based on this concept of the Land of Contradiction. In the skit, a woman (probably played by me) would be sitting behind a computer with a headset on while loudly chewing gum. People would come in, state their name and the promise that God gave them or the dream they had. It might go a little something like this:
Service rep: (with a nasal tone) Good afternoon and welcome to the Land of Contradiction. Please state your name. (blows a bubble and pops it)
Man 1: (nervous and excited) Yes. Hi. My name is Frank Maloney and God told me that I’m going to own my own business.
Service rep: (continues blowing gum while clicking away at the keyboard) (looks up at the monitor) Uh huh. Malon. Malone. Maloney. Here you are. (continues reading what’s on the screen) Ok, so Mr. Maloney, it says here that you’re about to get fired and you’ll need to go on the unemployment. May I also recommend you consider downsizing your current living situation for the next um year or two or five? And um do you really need your car?
Man 1: (in shock) What?!!! But I don’t understand. God said that my business would be successful. How can this be happening? I…
Service rep: (cutting him off) Excuse me, sir. There is no need to get loud, OK? I’m just trying to do my job. (hands him a slip of paper) Now if you’ll please take this ticket to the window over there, we can get you checked out, OK? Thank you so much.
Man 1: (stunned, takes the ticket) But God said…
Service rep: I’m sure He did, sir. And we know He’s not a liar. But let me remind you once again that you are currently in the Land of Contradiction where our motto is if you can dream it, we’ll do our best to try to squash it. Have a nice day. Next!
(Man 1 walks off dejected as the next customer sits down with the service rep.)
Clearly this is a work of fiction, but the overall theme is relatable. You have a dream or deep desire in your heart. You know it’s not just a passing whim. Every time you think about it you get excited. You started doing your research. You’re willing to do the work to achieve the objective: the degree, the career goal, the new business, the new home, etc. You’ve learned not to share your dream or plan with just anyone. But you have a few close, vetted friends, family or colleagues that you trust. They’ve thrown their support into your venture as well. Surely all signs are pointing to “Yes” as the old Magic 8 Ball used to say if you shook it just right. (In my case, I typically got “Try again later” or “Outlook not so good”. I hated that thing. But I digress.)
You get fired up and bold and step out in faith into what you believe is your destiny or maybe even a calling. What happens next? You know. All hell breaks loose (figuratively speaking, or maybe literally in some cases).
You go to the bank for the small business loan that given your credentials should have been a cake walk and you’re turned down. (By the way, what exactly is a cake walk? I don’t know about you, but anytime I’m walking while holding a cake, it is anything but easy. I’m completely paranoid that I’m going to trip, or the cake is going to slide all around in the box and I’ll lose half the frosting on one side. It’s kind of a nightmare. But I digress.) Let’s take a different scenario: you’re up for a promotion. Your boss has hinted that it’s only a matter of time. You’ve got it locked down. Two days later you find out they promoted someone else. One last scenario (because these examples are really bumming me out): you’re about to close on a house, but the deal falls through. You may look up to the heavens and cry:
What is going on?! I’m so confused.
At this point the Welcome Wagon should arrive to announce that you are the newest visitor to the Land of Contradiction. That wagon should come equipped with lots of chocolate, ice cream or whatever comfort food works for you. You’re gonna need it.
What is this strange land where dreams are trampled on and hopes are tossed about in the whirlwind? It’s what I like to call the in-between. It’s the place between promise and fulfillment.
As a person of faith, I believe the Bible is the Word of God. The promises mentioned in it are for me. Take this one, for example:
(All quoted verses are from the NIV version on biblegateway.com.)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
That verse brings me comfort because I’m persuaded that it applies to us as much today as it did in Biblical times. It is for anyone who chooses to receive it as truth.
This is another verse that I hold dear:
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Since we’re on the subject of having dreams and deep desires of our hearts, check this one out:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 emphasis added)
With all this encouragement and hope, how do we end up in the Land of Contradiction?
The best way to answer that question is with the story of Joseph. His saga begins in Genesis 37. If you’re not familiar, Genesis is the first book of the Bible. I find it significant that Joseph’s story is told so early on within the text. Perhaps God knew that we might one day have moments of doubt and confusion whilst traversing the barren wasteland of the Land of Contradiction. Maybe He gave us this story to help us to endure the in-between.
I apologize up front because I can assure you I will butcher my retelling of Joseph’s life. To fully appreciate its worth, I strongly recommend you read it in its entirety at some point. But for now, here’s my best attempt to summarize. Joseph is the younger son of Jacob (aka Israel the father of the Israelites). He has one younger brother and many older brothers. His Dad favors him, even giving him a beautiful robe. (Fun fact: the Broadway show Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was based on this story. But I digress.)
Joseph is about 17 and probably had a little bit of attitude as teenagers do. One day he tells his brothers of a dream he had. In the dream, they were all binding sheaves of grain in the field. Joseph’s sheaf rose and stood upright. The other sheaves gathered around his and bowed down to it. This did not go over well with his brothers, as you might imagine. They already were jealous of him because he was the favorite. Now he tells them this dream where the symbolism is clearly that he’ll be ruling over them. They yelled at him and hated him even more.
You would think Joseph would learn his lesson and not share his dreams with them again. But he doesn’t. He has another one with similar imagery of him in charge and them bowing. Does he tell them? Of course he does! This time even his Dad got angry with him.
Poor Joseph, he couldn’t help himself. He was in the first phase: the promise. This is the euphoric time where you’re so excited by the new idea or venture. You want to share it with everyone. But not everyone is going to be for you. You should always be very careful with whom you share your dreams. And you should keep in mind that after the dream is born, you’re about to enter the in-between. Get your ticket for the Land of Contradiction ready. Your train is about to leave the station.
Joseph’s story goes on. His brothers want to kill him but then think better of it. They choose to throw him down a well instead. These fellas give a whole new meaning to the phrase family feud. They then sell him into slavery. Read that sentence again.
But no matter where he ends up, God continues to show favor on Joseph. He’s a slave but the head of the household promotes him to a high-ranking position. Of course, then the guy’s wife tries to seduce him. (Bet you didn’t know the Bible was this spicy.) He refuses, so she accuses him of assault. Poor Joseph is thrown into prison.
But God. Once again our boy Joseph is shown favor by the prison warden. He basically becomes second-in-command. While serving his sentence he meets the King of Egypt’s (Pharaoh’s) cupbearer and baker. They’re chatting one day, and the men reveal that they each had dreams but don’t understand them. Well, here comes Joseph to the rescue. He interprets their dreams. (Spoiler alert: one has a happy ending, the other…not so much.) Before they leave the prison, Joseph asks that they remember him to the king. They do not. Not right away.
Two years later, Pharaoh has multiple dreams that no one can interpret. The cupbearer remembers Joseph. Do you know what happens next? Joseph is brought before Pharaoh and interprets his dreams concerning seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. Joseph gives Pharaoh instructions of how to prepare during the abundant years for ample storehouses during the years of famine.
Here comes God’s favor again. Joseph is appointed to lead this massive operation. He’s given a high-ranking office, second only to Pharaoh himself. It might seem like Joseph has left the Land of Contradiction and is living in his fulfillment phase, but the story doesn’t end there.
A time comes when his brothers arrive to purchase grain from Pharaoh’s storehouses. They are brought to Joseph, only they don’t recognize him. But he remembers them. They even bow before him (just as in his dreams). He does mess with them a little bit before revealing his true identity. You can read that for yourself.
The point of my sharing this story is that there is a space between promise and fulfillment. There is a season of the in-between. You probably will do some time in the Land of Contradiction. But there are lessons we can learn, maturing that can take place, humbling and refining of character that can happen.
Dare I say, in order to truly live the dream, we may need the Land of Contradiction?
If you read the full story, you’ll see how God used every circumstance, every disappointment, and every setback in Joseph’s life to bring him to his place of fulfillment. He loves you just as much. Can you dare to believe that He’ll be with you through every twist and turn from promise to fulfillment?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, emphasis added)
I’m not saying the in-between is easy. The Land of Contradiction has many mountains and valleys. It’s steep, rough terrain. The weather is unpredictable. The resources may be scarce. But you don’t have to stay there forever. And you have the best Guide navigating you through it all.
Dare to dream. Dare to hope. Dare to pursue.
Dare to believe.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,