After I graduated from Calvin, I didn’t really have any long-term vision for my life. I moved from Grand Rapids to Pittsburgh without giving it much thought, and I lived by the seat of my pants for six months. I didn’t see it that way then, but I was rudderless. I was holding a zippo lighter in a dark forest, trying to see more than just the couple of inches of path immediately in front of me. I didn’t even really have dreams or goals. I just had today and tomorrow; everything else was engulfed in mystery. It was December of 2013 before I made my first firm plan: Ben and I got engaged. Zero to sixty.
I hitched my wagon to my husband’s star, and suddenly my future filled out considerably more: I had a few years to live in Pittsburgh before Ben would graduate and we would figure out what would come next. Someone had replaced my dinky little flame with one of those hikers’ battery-powered lanterns and I felt like I had room to breathe and a life to craft for myself. I discovered social work, went back to school, and turned myself into what feels like a completely different person with different priorities and goals. It was a gradual change, but it’s noticeable (thanks to all those “Remember Five Years Ago Today” features of every app and social media account I have) even if only to me.
But that lantern is running out of battery and the path ahead is dimming again. Ben will defend his thesis in February and graduate in May, and somewhere in between those two milestones we will move to wherever he finds a job. His “Hire me, please!” net is cast wide and the process is slow going. I imagine that, from the outside, our lives look like that last drop of honey dripping off your spoon: sliding steadily to the edge at a pace so slow that you wonder if it will ever fall. But when The Job Offer comes and he accepts, it will be zero to sixty yet again. We’ll find an apartment, I’ll quit my job, the firm will send a moving truck to our house, I’ll get my social work license, and Ben will start his engineering career. We’ll get a bigger, better flashlight and move on down our newly illuminated path.
For the past few months, as we’ve been progressing glacially towards this ephemeral finish line, I’ve thought to myself how very weird this purgatorial feeling is. I don’t thrive on spontaneity; I like to plan, which is an anxiety-reducing strategy I must have picked up during the miserable mystery of 2013. And lately, because I don’t know where we’re going to move, there are so many plans I cannot make. I’ve actually started making plans for plans I hope to make. Coping-ception.
Now, though, as we enter the season of Advent, I realize that this oblivion between destinies is not new. I lived in this limbo before my wedding, before my college graduation, before anything. I was born into this limbo, into the age that is passing away, into the pain of longing for what comes next. Life after the garden has always been that honey dripping so painfully slow you couldn’t anticipate its fall. Abraham spent all his years there. Life before the incarnation, life under The Law seemed to drag on forever. God’s people could do nothing but lean on the promises they had been given that, regardless of the uncertainty they were in, the end was known, and it would be beautiful.
Life after the cross has that same groaning of trying to pull the future closer. We know we are living in an age that is passing away, and we believe in the promise of the age to come, but we know that planning for a future that is not yet ours isn’t faith: it’s trying to control something that has purposefully been set beyond our reach. Paul instructed us to be ready, to clothe ourselves in the love and salvation of Jesus Christ, and to wear our faith like armor.
Because we’re not just waiting, anymore than Ben and should “just wait” to know where we are going to live. There is still life left in these days, still work to do, and not just dreams for what is to come. And if I really trust in the promises that have been made to me, I trust that the things outside my control will be taken care of. My little bubble of relationships and routines exists for me to serve it with compassion, not for me to overlook it because something more interesting is on the horizon.
This advent season of the year falls in a unique advent season of my life. I don’t think that is a coincidence.