For months I’ve been navigating across the rocks in the river of The Gap– that place between the Old Life and arrival at the bank of the other side where you cross into the New Life; Looking back I’m amazed at all that God has brought me through.
When you’ve had to be focused on accomplishing tasks like selling your house, moving, pulling together financial papers for a divorce, it suddenly seems very still when there are no huge tasks before you. You’re saying, “What’s next?” in that movement that’s pulled you toward the future and has been the central force in your life since separating.
Now, after crossing over so many rocks in the river, I’m in a period of waiting. I’ve never waited well. I tend to be a goal-focused person and feel a level of anxiety when I don’t think I’m moving forward. Since we’ve completed all that we must do, it’s now the time of waiting for the courts. This is a time when you have to stay on the rock in the river until you’re cleared to climb up the bank of the other side, to the mystery of what lies ahead.
I remember the summer of 2014 when I took my solo journey to Michigan. One of the reasons I made that long road trip was to see Lake Michigan. As one who has always lived on the East Coast, I’d never been impressed when people referred to the vastness of the Great Lakes. When I saw online pictures of Lake Michigan with turquoise water, I really thought those photos had been altered to give the water a more tropical appearance.
My route included a two-night stop in Toledo at my cousin’s, and then I traveled on to Mackinac Island to ride my bike around the perimeter bordered by Lake Huron. After spending the day on my bike, I had the unexpected excitement of seeing Elvis– well a would-be Elvis doing a concert on a stage in the town center. Without the restraint of my husband and two sons warning me not to do anything to embarrass them, I made my way to the edge of the stage. When Elvis finished singing, I went up to that Hunk of Burnin’ Love and asked him to take a picture with me. I’ve always chuckled at this photograph because it reminds me of how free I felt in that moment.
The next day, I drove to Traverse City where I would be close to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There I would see those tropical waters of Lake Michigan–from the same location as the pictures I’d viewed online. I couldn’t wait to get to the dunes, to be by the water.
But when I arrived, there was a complete whiteout, the area shrouded in dense fog from an unexpected front that came through. I was totally disappointed because I’d anticipated that moment of looking out over Lake Michigan as the highlight of my trip–the reason I’d driven over 900 miles by myself.
After standing there, frozen in disbelief at the change of circumstances, I finally gathered myself and drove to the Ranger station. I asked the staff member when he thought the weather would clear and the visibility return.
“We didn’t expect this. You never know about these things,” he said. “Could be gone by tomorrow. You just have to wait and see.”
He gave me the number for the Park info line to check on weather conditions. I drove back to Traverse City feeling totally disappointed– and foolish, for not checking ahead. Disillusioned, I half-talked-to-myself and half-prayed-to-God, “What am I going to do?”
I stopped at the city marina and paced around the well-landscaped waterfront park, watching the children playing, listening to their laughter. Sitting on the bench, the answer came to me, “Just enjoy these moments of rest. Everything will work out.” How often do you have a relaxing Sunday afternoon, I thought, remembering if I were at home I’d have something scheduled– like church or visiting Mama then dancing at the Elk’s Lodge that night.
I did enjoy that evening, letting go of my disappointment and reworking the next day’s route to go back to Sleeping Bear Dunes. There was time for leisurely phone calls with my family and an excellent dinner at the hotel restaurant followed by watching television.
The next day, I held my breath as I drove into the park and saw no sign of fog, the day much brighter than the one before. I stepped up to the overlook and gasped with excitement when I saw Lake Michigan, the tropical, turquoise-blue waters that were true to the picture.
It was worth the wait.
I looked out over the lake and drank in the expanse that stretched as far as the eye could see– like the waters of the Atlantic.
So many times since that Michigan journey, the whiteout experience has served as a useful metaphor; being blocked from what I’d longed for, waiting and focusing on the present, then being rewarded with seeing that long-anticipated view.
This week when I was struggling with waiting, I read portions of the book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I like his summary of the section, “A Time to Wait.”
“Active waiting is being open to the promise yet to be fulfilled. Patient waiting is staying fully in the present moment. Expectant waiting is trusting that this long process will bear fruit.” (pg. 153)
Now, I return to what feels like the final big rock in the river, next to the bank. There I can sit with Nouwen’s definitions of waiting– broken down for me so that waiting feels like doing something and in that I can release my restlessness.
How about you?
Are you experiencing The Gap in any area of your life?
In what ways could Nouwen’s definitions of waiting be helpful for you?