A group of my girlfriends and I just went through a book called Still by Lauren Winner. This is the first I’ve heard of her and, consequently, the first book of hers I’ve read, but this is not Winner’s first book; she’s written before, chronicling her journey from being raised in a Jewish household to finding Christ to teaching at Duke Divinity School. She’s an interesting woman, no doubt, and her writing style is captivating.
Still is a memoir about a time in Winner’s life she describes as a “mid-faith crisis”. She had just gone through a divorce and a God who was once closer to her than her own skin seemed absent and cold. In Still, she describes this time in her life as “the middle” — a time where she did not see the connection between where she’d been and where she may have been going, wherever that was, and so she went through the motions (going to church, prayer, etc.) just to feel a sense of normalcy rather than to actually connect with her Creator, an impossible feat at the time.
I suppose a lot of us go through times like this — “middles”, if you will — and I think I’m going through one of them right now.
Back in September, if you would have told me that in the summer of 2012 I’d be about to give birth to my first child and signing a lease to renew my residence in Tallahassee for another year, I would have laughed in your face. After our yearly trip to Chicago that month, Dan and I agreed that we felt God calling us to a major metropolitan area, probably Chicago but maybe somewhere else, to do full-time ministry together. And so, we had a plan. And we thought God backed that plan. And we set out to start seeing that plan come to fruition.
But, as you can see, none of that panned out like we’d thought.
Living in a college town, a city comprised mostly of transients, there are a couple times of the year when we experience a mass exodus — the end of spring and the end of fall. Of course, we signed the lease to our new place here in Tallahassee during one of those times, which emphasizes the stagnation of our lives even more. As droves of our friends pack up, move away, possibly forever, to bigger and better things, we’ve signed on to one more year of this.
At least one more year of the middle.
I’ve been poring over these feelings over the past week as we’ve been packing up our house. Feelings of sadness, but also fondness. We spent the first three years of our lives together in that house. We learned about promotions and life-changes in that house. We’ve held bible studies in that house. We’ve had unexpected visitors in that house. We’ve adopted cats in that house. We took a positive pregnancy test in that house. I could go on…
So much has happened there, and this past September, a mere nine months ago, we thought that we’d only pack that house up in order to move somewhere outside of Tallahassee to follow a huge and exciting calling. But now, we’re packing boxes to the brim just to haul them across town in what seems like, at best, a lateral move and, at worst, a step backward.
I can’t speak for Dan, who is arguably more relaxed over this whole thing than I clearly am, blogging about it and such, but I know that as far as I’m concerned, in prayer, I find myself barking questions and orders into a void: Why is this happening? Why isn’t it what we discussed earlier? It wasn’t supposed to happen this way — are you even listening? Are you even here? And I’m waiting for the right response, wrestling with the middle, only to be answered with a peaceful silence.
And so. I pray. I go to church. I trust that what is happening is right. But I don’t know why. And I don’t know when it ends or changes.
Hey, don’t write yourself off yet.
It’s only in your head, you feel left out or looked down on.
Just do your best, do everything you can.
And don’t you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.
It just takes some time,
Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine.
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.
— Jimmy Eat World, The Middle