It's really strange to never arrive.

Taking stock of my life as we all tend to do from time to time, I wonder at this incomplete feeling. I wonder for how long I will live with it. In some ways, no, in many, on discovering the gospel and particular verses, I came to see that this ache that is sometimes too much to bear and often strangely enough hardly discernible at all, is fitting. Now it's here, last week it was not so much. 

Psalm 119:19a describes "I am a stranger on earth"and in Hebrews 11 they "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" (verse 13). Peter also describes his Christian readers as "aliens and strangers in the world."

What I have discovered of late, moreover, is that this feeling is often exacerbated by those we imagine 'get us.' In other words, there is the dangerous temptation of being led to think that when you finally connect with a bunch of people who feel rather like you do about God and the world, life and how to live it, this feeling will subside a little.

You will arrive.

You do not.

Moreover, I am learning some very tough lessons from 'the wounding I receive in the house of my friends.' I know I have dwelt before on this topic - it might be that I will just stay here for a little while. It could be that I will look back on this blog-post in a few weeks and wonder what I was doing, thinking all this stuff. This is always the danger. When it's better, you look back and judge yourself low at that point or over-sensitive and wonder why and how you could have gone to that place. 

In some ways recording it helps reveal it so that when you go there again, you have strategies, you have stories, you have a history to recover - it passed, it faded, it did get better, it will get better again.  

I do not definitively know what triggers the feeling - but I am beginning to work it out - it is these things: 
a mismatch between expectations and reality
a longing whose fulfilment is only just out of reach
a vision frustrated which will not stop gnawing
words internally articulated  that can never be said
a longing for a transformation that creeps in by the centimetre

I know what completion feels like because I have experienced it. I am so far from it in this particular episode of my life that sometimes it feels excruciating. I expected to find a little more of it - I was perhaps even wondering if it was unfolding but today and maybe just today it has vanished out of sight. 

There was completion when I was 21, and a man on a dance floor, somewhere in Loughborough, asked me to dance. As I said 'no,' I saw my future married life unfold in front of my eyes. I wouldn't dance with him because I was in a relationship and I promised at that moment to never be distracted again. 

I  experienced completion a year or so after my second daughter was born. Eyes no longer strayed to rest on pregnant bumps and snuggled, baby-carrier lumps. I knew my family was finished and that I would not want to have any more children. 

I have experienced it, nearly... in times of worship. There is a communitas, a togetherness, a connection that occurs so manifestly both with the people around you and the God you worship that it hovers within touching distance, it can be tasted. 

In this life that I am leading, though, I have days when I feel painfully bereft, I am so unfinished, incomplete and unfulfilled.  I think I remember this though - it all seems connected to church life. I remember aching a little after holiday club - working out eventually that being in the presence of God and with other Christians worshipping felt so fulfilling that turning that volume down again, taking the pan off the boil and changing the thermostat to something more cool was leaving a vacuum, a painful gap, a dangerous omission. When the week was finished and the people left, I ached. 

I remember it when labouring towards ordination, hearing Paul's words about 'groaning inwardly as we wait,' but it didn't go - it hasn't gone. I was not delivered. 

...so what do I do?
I have not got a clue...I continue to wait, press on, persevere, cling, breathe, hang ...



Karen said...

wow, Rachel - you're not alone.

In the words of a song:

until I die I'll sing these songs
on the shores of Babylon
still looking for a home
in a world where I belong

where the weak are finally strong
where the righteous right the wrongs
still looking for a home
in a world where I belong

feels like we're just waiting, waiting
while our hearts are just breaking, breaking
feels like we're just fighting against the tide

I wanna see the earth start shaking
I wanna see a generation
finally waking up inside

and when I reach the other side
I want to look you in the eye
and know that I've arrived
in a world where I belong

I still believe we can live forever
you and I we begin forever now
forever now

I still believe in us together
you and I we're here together now
together now
forever now

(Switchfoot, Where I Belong)

Rach said...

Thank you so much - a comfort to know we are not alone. x

Anonymous said...


This is quite an interesting comment. I recently attended a series of lectures on mid-life spirituality. This is where you get the sense that life is passing you by and time is beginning to run out and you may miss what you aspire to.

Certainly when I first became a christian in my teens, I aspired to change the world, then my town, then my friends and now I am in my fifties; I think I can just about change a tyre on my car.

It is an illusion to think that with just a little bit more effort you will 'arrive'. Now I am older I think about my mortality more often. You will arrive when you are ushered into the presence of God and the 'sehnsucht' as C.S Lewis called it, is finally realised and you are complete.

The important thing is to live one day at a time, loving God, knowing that God loves you and being loved by others. Love is what counts which is what the relational basis of the Trinity is all about.


Savi Hensman said...

It sounds like a difficult place to be. Perhaps, slowly or suddenly, things will get clearer.

I wonder whether your experience might be linked to being part of a church in which people sometimes, too easily, fit into tribes which do not mix much - the more reformed and more catholic, modern and traditional, orthodox and emergent... Not slotting neatly into a particular category which separates itself from others can be uncomfortable, but those who can cross borders perhaps have an important contribution to make.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Another called it the Shaking of the Foundations, but I wouldn't want to say if it is foundations or just something swaying in the wind.

Rach said...

Ooh Tillich - I will get onto reading it.

thanks (I think:-)

Nancy Wallace said...

Are the times when we feel most incomplete the times of greatest growth? At least viewed later with the gift of hindsight?

Rach said...

...living one day at a time - yes - thank you, Iconoclast. Crossing borders - yes you are definitely on to something there Savi. 'Greatest growth' Nancy - I am hoping, at the moment, it feels like quite the opposite - but then feelings are not everything. Thanks all.


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