The feeling of blah

Sunday comes. “How was your week?” she asks. 

I want to say mundane. “Uneventful,” I tell her. 

I don’t tell her that I spent an hour the night before, staring at a blinking cursor in my Word document. 

Or that the blank Word document feels a little like my life lately. 

Not terrible. Not wonderful. Just a little blank.

Call it lack of sunlight. Call it a slump. 

I remember waiting outside the door to her studio, nervously wiping my hands on my jeans. 

She hated how I played Bach. But she was also the first person to show me that the space between the notes was just as important as the notes themselves. 

It’s Sunday when I know I’m stuck in the space between.

And it’s easy to try to fill the silence.

To bang out the notes, whether they belong in the melody or not. 

I’m not growing enough. I’m not using my time wisely. 

To become convinced that the age-old promises about abundant life are not for me. 

And it’s easy to let the silence fill me. 

To forget to pray in the morning. To wonder if it really matters when you don’t feel the pleasure of it.

She hated how I played Bach. But she was the one who showed me that silence can be intentional. 

That some pages are left blank on purpose. 

From the pulpit, he reminds us that Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30. And what happened in the years before that? 

It gives me hope that maybe there is growth between the lines.

Identity crisis

“Back when you were sassy.” She sends the photo to me with a note.  

I stare at it closely–back when I wore light purple overalls and polkadots. I was too young to know how to drive, but young enough to know what I really wanted. 

And too young to notice what other people really wanted me to want. 

And young enough not to care. 

“Being in your twenties is about figuring out who you are,” he says. 

I’m not the little girl in the photograph anymore. Am I?

I call her on a Thursday night. “I think I’m having an identity crisis.” She waits for me to say more. 

It’s a miscellaneous mess of a reply. I’m trying to piece together my past, present and future and put it into words for her. 

Finally, she says my name in a way that makes me want to listen. “Kate,” she says, “the wisdom from above is peaceable.” 

Not confusing. Peaceable. 

And I’m a mess of confusion, gripping my phone like it’s a lifeline. 

We all sit around the table together and he’s not really talking to me, but that’s how I hear his words. “The more we keep quiet about our values and identity, the more we diminish our sense of self.” 

It’s not that I’ve been lying, I’ve just been silent. Maybe that’s worse.  

When you’re silent about your identity, you start to wonder if it really exists at all. You start to wonder what it is. 

“You’re right,” I tell her over the phone on a Thursday night. “The truth is not confusing like this.”

The Master of Confusion knew it too, tempting Jesus. If You are the Son of God, he said. 

If you are a child of God, Kate.

Instead of being buried with Christ in God, I have buried my values in the fear of people’s opinions–people from church and people from work and people from the train stop. 

Instead of being found with Christ in God, I’ve been lost in what they say is the proper way to live.

Everyone talks big about embracing identity, but I’m scared of what that will mean for me. I serve a God who demands my whole life–lived out in the open with mistakes and opinions spoken. 

And I’m scared of what it will mean for me if I don’t. I serve a God who has given His whole life for me–who loves me in the light without reservation.

The past, present and future is still a miscellaneous mess, but I know who I am. I am hid with Christ in the great I AM. 

And that is not something you can live with half a heart.

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4

Growing pains

Barely twelve days into the new year and I call him, voice breaking, and he tells me to come right over.

He holds my head against his chest with both hands and doesn’t say anything.

The year’s just opened like a stiffly bound book and the pages are already filling with an ending I hoped to leave out.

And I’d just spent the better part of that afternoon, trying to send her some reasonable answer for the question she’d asked me. Why has God allowed these hard things happen? 

It takes a few hours before I realize that philosophy feels flippant when pain still stings.

Why indeed. 

But when he holds my head against his chest and we sit on his couch and I tell him I feel sad, he says that’s okay because it’s part of the process.

“Don’t wish for pain, but when it comes, lean into it and find out what it will teach you,” he tells me.

Because she told him something similar once. And she was shaped by pain and she shaped me with her kindness.

Because pain is really just growing pains.

And growing pains are really just side effects of being stretched to full height and pushed to greater strength.

Pain is really preparation for battling better next time.

“Lean into the Lord and none of your hurt is wasted,” she tells me.

But I’d rather fall asleep to pain. I’d rather forget sadness in the endless line of weekday activities. I’d rather fix my gaze on the Netflix home-screen than on the face of Someone who knows my emotions. I’d rather philosophize than feel.

But that would be a waste.

If pain is going to wake me up–if pain is going to snatch me from the arms of comfort, then I’d rather it wakes me to the reality that He weeps with us.

And I’d rather it hurl me hard into the arms of Grace.

I’d rather that be the purpose of pain.

And perhaps sadness greater than sadness itself would be to live a year without the side effects of growth.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

New year, same age-old perspective

The eve of a new year always has me thinking of ways I could do better.

Because there’s nothing like a week of holidays to remind you that maybe you could avoid that two-hour argument on Christmas Day and maybe you could swipe through Instagram a little less and give her your undivided attention a lot more.

How do you plan for a new year when you’re still not sure you did the old one very well?

And when you’re still not sure what you’d do differently if you could.

If you’d remain silent when he says those shocking words or if you’d speak up.

If you’d offer your help without a second thought or if you’d hold back.

“I’m concerned about you, Kate,” she tells me in mid-November, about the thoughts I’m having, the opinions I’m forming.

But she doesn’t need to tell me, because I’m concerned about it every day. Am I doing any of this right?

We sit across the table from each other and I lay out these fears, one by one.

“Kate,” she leans forward, holding my gaze. “Jesus is completely pleased with you.”

My instinct is to interrupt her and tell her all the reasons He shouldn’t be.

Instead, I try to brush it off with silence.

A few hours later, I stand in church as they sing around me. Oh, how He loves us. 

I’ve always thought it was a self-centred song. I’ve always had difficulty singing it.

But I sing it this time and try to keep my mascara from running.

How audacious do you have to be to love someone like me?

And how sure He must be of the finality of His sacrifice, of His death for my holiness, once for all.

The eve of a new year always has me thinking of ways I could do better.

But not this year.

This year, I’m thinking of what He’s already done.

And no matter what changes for better or for worse, that won’t.

“First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ … we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:8;10

The goodness factor

We step carefully over the puddle and turn toward each other, shielding our faces from the bite of the wind.

“I can’t tell if my feelings and decisions are a reaction of fear,” she tells me.

A reaction to the phone calls we’ve had in months past, conversations that shatter the surface of people we thought we knew so well.

People we once loved become people we can hardly bear to meet for a coffee.

And I always thought I knew how to handle it. I thought I had figured it out when I was still an age where my biggest concern was convincing my parents to let me stay up past bedtime.

The worst-case scenario system.

If you work through the worst thing that could happen, you will never be disappointed. 

If the word ‘no’ kept me from late nights, I could read under the safety of my covers.

If my boyfriend broke up with me, I could throw myself into writing.

If I didn’t get a job…

If he died before I was 25…

“Does anything faze you?” She asks. And I realize my system has worked.

But she asks me how I got through the last big disappointment and I don’t know what to tell her. Because it’s a flawed system. It’s a child’s way of coping.

“Time,” I say, surprised by my own answer.

And before that?

Time.

Because time has a way of putting distance between heartache.

And if you ride the train of time long enough, it has a way of bringing you into a break in the clouds.

And a break in the clouds has a way of showing the goodness of God.

Because it’s always present–just not visible until you’ve left the fog of disappointment.

If you work back through the worst-case events of the past, you can see that God is good.

And if you haven’t yet, you will.

I text him back: Yes. I’ll take a new risk, even though it might end with disappointment.

Not because I have a disaster plan.

But because I have a track record of the goodness of God.

And it’s a 100% positive guarantee.

“Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident…I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:3;13

Nothing noteworthy

“There must be more than this.”

I sit in the armchair and wait for my friends to arrive and fill the empty cottage with their laughter. It’s only after they get there that I realize we forgot cake and candles.

It’s almost exactly a year later on the eve of my 26th birthday and I still feel the same way.

“There must be more.”

It’s only a week before when I swallow hard and feel the dampness of my palms clasped together. It has been awhile since I was nervous talking in a group of only a dozen people.

What are my deepest desires in life apart from Christ? 

I take a deep breath.

“I want to write a book, not necessarily one that a lot of people read, but one that I know is good. I want to live an adventurous, independent life.”

Dependence terrifies me.

“And I’d love it if no one else I love ever died.”

It’s only five days later when we’re picking away at our rice, that she gestures toward me with her chopsticks. “Do you have any goals in life apart from your career?”

Meaningful relationships, I tell her.

Even as I say it, I’m wondering if that’s really enough.

And on the eve of being 26, I flip back through the years in my head and try to count the things I’ve done that have made any real difference.

The older I get, the more anxious I feel to make something of my life.

And the more I feel like I’m just passing time.

Like life is an awkward one-hour wait between flights and I can’t commit to a full sit-down dinner.

My tendency is to set more goals. To fix it myself. To live an independent life.

I want this so much. Too much.

Maybe the reason it feels like there is more to life than this is because there is–and it has nothing to do with doing more or being more.

Maybe I’m so obsessed with making my life count by doing great things that I never stop to ask what things God wants me to do. Maybe the greatness He wants in me is what I often see as lessness. Maybe the value He wants from my life is what I often see as worthless.

Maybe my plans are not in His plan at all.

And my life is not my own.

And maybe that’s how to live my 26th year with no regrets.

As if my life is His.

 

The waiting sickness

She asks me how bad the homesickness is and I tell her it’s nonexistent.

Until the next Friday night, when I rack my brain for someone in the same time zone to call.

How long will it take to make Friday-night-kind-of friends?

It was only three months before when he brought the car to a stop and told me I didn’t look well. “It’s just the stress of the move,” I tell him. “It’ll be better in a month.”

I let the time pass.

But I find that waiting is not a cure. It’s simply the current that brings you into another pool of time–and there will be deeper waters and darker shadows there too.

She calls me that Friday night and asks how you get to the point in grief where you can get off the couch. And I don’t know the right answer. I only know that there have been times where I’ve used time like it’s the only antidote at my disposal.

“I wish I could just know,” I remember her telling me. And I agree. If only there was a way to just know whether he’s the right person to marry, then you could skip the dull ache of anxiety in the years of not knowing if all this is going to end in pain.

But you’d also the skip the buildup of wisdom.

It’s after our second date that I sit on the couch with palms open and wonder if there will ever be a day when I will move gracefully into waiting.

Maybe the best way to grow is to not grow tired of waiting.

But to use it to push away the long, dying branches of self-reliance.

Maybe the best way not to drown in the deep waters of waiting is not found in avoiding the shoreline, but in learning to swim.

“I wouldn’t have prayed about this decision if I wasn’t forced into the paralyzing position of not knowing what was going to happen,” I tell her in the middle of it all.

Because waiting is the best way to remember that we cannot and will not and do not know what the future holds.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know.

It’s okay to be forced to live without answers for a long time.

Because the past has shown the proof of Faithful Answers.

And how the darkest days are also the shortest days. And how the days of not knowing lead to a greater knowledge of the One who knows everything. And how days in the shadow of grief highlight the hope for better things. And hope leads back to Him.

And He is the Beginning and the End. And every question is as good as answered because time is all the same to Him.