Before the Next Big Thing: a book review

On the day before Thanksgiving, my family of five piled into our Chevy Malibu and braved the I-5. We were driving down to Portland to see friends for the holiday. I thought this was a great time to listen to Jeff Goins’s The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing. So in-between stops for gas, cries for bathroom breaks and the inevitable slowdown of Seattle traffic, I listened through my ear buds and prayed someone would fall asleep.

I hadn’t read any of Goins’s books before. I  do occasionally read his blog. Online Goins posts about writing and growing your social media presence (surprisingly, I don’t find this annoying). In The In-Between he turns his attention to the time we spend waiting for the next big thing in our lives. Most of our life is spent waiting, which is frustrating for a culture and generation which is raised on instant-gratification. But the in-between times are  a gift to us.

This book is a memoir, exploring the terrain of Goins’s life. There are stories here from his childhood,his junior year of college when he studied abroad in Spain, from his time leading a worship band on tour, his early professional life, his discovery of his writing vocation, his courtship of his wife, the birth of their first child, and the experience of parenthood. Goins also talks about his friendship with senior citizens at his church (who have now passed on). Goins knew them late in life, but still experienced their life as gift.

The message of this book is to get us to enjoy our wait. When we are rushing to the next big thing we fail to appreciate what is in front of us now. Furthermore waiting is not a static place. It is a place where we are changed: our faith deepens, our vision is clarified, and we discover who we are and who we are becoming. Though Goins doesn’t make the explicit connection in his book, the now-but-not-yet tension of the Kingdom of God is a liminal space we inhabit as Christians. We are in a space of constant waiting but in the waiting we are changed. This is not a book about theology, but Goins does a great job of describing this as lived reality.

The past couple of years of my life I’ve felt frustrated in my vocational goals. I am a supervisor at a hardware store instead of a pastor in a church. I’ve spent half my time waiting frustrated at God at why my life isn’t where I want it to be. But I have discovered the gifts of inhabiting liminal spaces. Surrounded by supportive community, good friends, and living in one of the world’s most beautiful places (Birch Bay, Washington) I am learning to enjoy the moment and receive what God has for me here. Through the waiting I am changed. Goins names this tension well and I found this an encouraging read.  While there is not much in the way of liturgical reflection in this book (other than a reflection on the season of Epiphany), I think this would be an interesting read for the season of Advent. I give this book four stars!

Thank you to Moody Publishers, Christian Audio and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my review. At the time that I am writing this review, the Kindle version of The In-Between is free on Amazon.

Thanksgiving traffic was horrendous. I finished listening to this book with eighty miles of Washington left on our journey. It was only at that point that my four year old fell asleep, but this was a good drive. My three children did not complain about the extra two hours of driving time that Thanksgiving afflicted on us. They enjoyed the drive. They were happy to get to Portland and excited about spending a night in a cheap motel (what could be better?).

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