In the sports world there is halftime that brief interval between the first and second half of a game that allows the players to rest and adjust their strategy. No matter how far ahead or behind a team is in the first half, it is what happens in the second half that determines the outcome. I could extend the “life is a game” metaphor ad nauseam. There is a word to consider in recovering from our mistakes: intermission.
In life, intermission is that period of time between our failure and our future. Our intermission usually begins with some major mistake (or the fallout from that mistake). In case you have not yet grasped the concept of intermission, let me illustrate it for you. Intermission is that period of time between...a divorce and the beginning of another meaningful relationship, a termination and employment in a job you rally desire, a bankruptcy and financial solvency, and a revelation of your immorality and the restoration of your reputation. This interruption is usually marked by guilt over our failure and apprehension about our future. We wait, and we wonder if the curtain will ever rise again.
God uses this pause to prepare us for an even better second act...if we are willing to cooperate with Him. As you look through the Bible, you will discover that God has always used intermissions in the lives of His people. For Israel, intermission was the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. God used this time between the people’s rebellion and their
return to Jerusalem to strengthen their relationship with Him. For Peter, intermission was the seven weeks between his denial of Christ in Caiaphas’s courtyard and his courageous stand for Christ on the Day of Pentecost. It was during this time that the resurrected Lord revealed Himself to Peter and reminded him of his responsibility to “feed My sheep” (Jn 21:17). For Paul, intermission was the three years between his conversion from the greatest persecutor of the church to the greatest missionary of the church. God used the three years Paul spent in the desert to teach him the great doctrinal truths he would deliver to the churches.
Intermission in the story of Moses
What comes to mind when you hear the name of Moses? The parting of the Red Sea? The receiving of the Ten Commandments? The stirring address he gave as the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land? Do you realize that all these signal events took place in the last third of Moses’ life, after the age of eighty? The first forty years of Moses’ existence are compressed in Exodus 2:1-10. God miraculously preserved Moses from Pharaoh’s slaughter of the newborn. Acts 7:21-22 says, “After had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.”
Not only did Moses escape death, but he ended up in the household of Egypt’s most powerful man. Perhaps Moses would be able to use his relationship with his newly adopted Grandpa Pharaoh to secure the release of the Israelites. Or possibly Moses would so dazzle Pharaoh and the Egyptians with his scholastic ability and powerful oratorial skills that they would gladly acquiesce to his request for Israel’s freedom. But God had a different plan. It would be Moses’ failure, not his success, that would set the stage for the greatest comeback in Israel’s history.
When Moses was about forty years old, he blew it big time. In an instant he made a mistake that would haunt him for decades, “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.... Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian” (Acts 7:23-25, 29). During the first forty years of Moses’ life, God had protected him from death and prepared him to be Israel’s leader. But in an instant, Moses’ temper led him to make a tragic mistake that apparently ruined God’s plan for his life. Moses assumed that his murder of the Egyptian soldier had gone unnoticed. But the next day when Moses intervened in a squabble between two Israelites, one of the men asked, “Are you going to kill me just like you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” (Act 7:27-28). “When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well” (Ex 2:15).
I have often wondered what Moses thought about once he quit running long enough to sit down by the well in the middle of that desert. One mistake had transported him from the palace to the prairie. One moment of uncontrolled rage had sent him from the penthouse to the outhouse! And he would spend a long time there-forty years to be exact. Can you imagine the “if only’s” that must have flooded his mind? If only I had slept in that morning instead of checking out the construction site. If only I had refused that double shot of espresso in my cafe latte. If only I had enrolled in that anger-management class. Moses was certain that life as he knew it was over. He could forget about being the leader of anything other than a few scraggly sheep in the middle of Nowheresville.
The curtain had come down on Moses’ dream of leading his people out of bondage into the bountiful land God had promised. Or so he thought. In reality, Moses was just experiencing an intermission. “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai... When Moses saw it he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord” (Acts 7:30-31). Do the math for a moment. Moses was forty when he killed the Egyptian. He spent forty years in the desert. That means Moses was eighty years old when God appeared to him and said, Now it’s time for your second act.
Moses’ forty-year desert interlude illustrates there important characteristics about intermissions that we need to understand before we can learn how to profit from the inevitable interruptions in life.
Intermissions are usually imposed, not chosen
After murdering the Egyptian soldier, Moses didn’t say to himself, “Whoa! I obviously have some anger issues that need to be resolved before I can be the liberator of Israel. I think I will take a forty-year sabbatical in the desert.” No, God made that choice for Moses, as He sometimes does for us.
From our perspective, intermissions mean waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Waiting for God to make needed changes in our lives. Waiting for God to change the hearts of others whom we have hurt. Waiting for God to work out the circumstances that make our second act possible. But waiting times are not wasted times. God’s still at work even though we can’t always see immediate results. Still, that knowledge doesn’t lessen our dislike of intermissions.
Intermissions come at various times in life
We sometimes use the term “midlife crisis.” This is the time in life, usually between ages thirty-eight and fifty, when people (predominantly, though not exclusively, men) realize that they have more years behind them than in front of them. That realization many times leads to a full-scale panic attack. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this. I’d better make some changes!” Those changes can include anything from trading in the family sedan for a sports car to trading in a mate for a newer, more energetic (and sometimes synthetic) model.
The sensation that our life clock is ticking more loudly and more quickly can lead us to make some beneficial changes. However, whenever those changes are the result of panic rather careful planning, the result can be disastrous. I don’t believe it is any coincidence that Moses was approaching forty when he decided to start the revolution without God. Perhaps he was suffering from his own version of the middle-age crazies. We’ve been in bondage for four hundred years, and I’m not getting any younger, Moses concluded. So he led the way in liberating the Israelites. The only problem was that no Israelites followed him. Right goal. Wrong time. Consequently, Moses endured a forty-year intermission, waiting on God’s timing. Although major failures-and the resulting intermissions that follow them-often occur during midlife, they can happen anytime. Divorces, lapses of morality, and financial failures are not confined to one age group.