It feels like I’m in a middle moment. That’s the best way I can put words to this feeling.
So, part of it was coming back to Montreal on Jan 2nd, a week before the next semester would begin. No one was around. I had no work to do. No classes to go to.
And so a lot of it was spent by myself. This is the dream, one would think. A week free of obligations and the usual clatter that crowds.
But, I felt oddly restless. I wanted desperately to use my time well:
Isn’t free time what everyone is pining for? So we can do what we want to do?
Yet, when the free time is given to us, the question becomes: what do I want to do? What do I really want?
I wondered what people do with their alone time, and whether they feel fulfilled with it (maybe you can share with me what you do with yours, since it’s a topic I feel no one really talks about and I’m genuinely curious…).
I had a list of things I could potentially do. Of course, there was always cleaning. I could cook something new, try a new workout, read a book, practice calligraphy. And so I would make a list, try to make myself feel useful and productive by list-making and checking them off one by one.
You may laugh – yes, I have trouble with simply sitting still, sleeping in until noon or binge-watching Netflix.
As I discovered this past weekend, I am an Enneagram 7, “the Enthusiast”, which means my thinking is stimulated by activity. I am compelled to stay on the go, moving from one experience to the next, searching for more stimulation.
You see, I have grand desires – big visions of the impact I want to make in the world – yet I struggle with how everything I touch is small.
I roll goji berries into almond flour batter and ask myself why this is important. I try to sit and pray, but my praying feels more like wheel-spinning. More like activity for the sake of it, than actual connection.
But I am unable to get that connection. The radio is static and I can’t fix it, nor drive out of the region of no reception.
After how many checked-off boxes on a list will I feel like enough is enough? My lack of answer is disconcerting.
In one of these middle moments, I read this piece by Krysti Wilkinson on her coming back from Malawi and struggling with God calling her to the seemingly mundane. And her words were a lot of what I was trying to express.
In Princeton, I was part of the grand vision of seeing revival sweep across the Ivy Leagues. Then, in China, I taught special need orphans how to read, write, and make music in a village that had captured my heart.
But here, I feel very ordinary.
This is what I told myself I didn’t want to settle into. I wasn’t meant to be normal. I wasn’t meant to do ordinary work.
And yet, here I am – waking up, brushing my teeth, making scrambled eggs, taking the metro, measuring powders on weighing balances while trying to remember my weekly commitment for that night of the week.
What does world-changing extraordinary work look like now? When there are no flashy moments to show for it? No life-altering testimonies to report?
And even deeper, my soul is asking: am I valuable to God even when I don’t feel “productive for Him”?
I’m still in this middle moment. But I wanted to write it not when I started to feel a bit more extra-ordinary, a bit more productive, because I have an inkling we are all asking the same questions underneath all our activity.
I also wanted to share a bit of Sara Hagerty’s writing. In reading her thoughts, it feels more like praying than what I try to do while I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor trying my best to concentrate.
She writes about the middle moments, in fact, and how they matter. The place that no one sees. She writes about this productivity fast she’s recently gone on:
So for the next stretch of months, I’ve taken my most ‘productive’ hours of my day — when the big kids are wading in the creek and the babes are napping and we’re still a few hours away from dinner — and I’ve left them wide open. To face the awkwardness my heart and mind feel when I’m not ‘producing’ for God. To let the thoughts I so often stuff, deep inside, bubble up and to take them to Him.
To be present with whatever it is that He puts in front of me.
The middle moments between semesters, between the red light and the green, between the wash and dry cycles. I want to find God there.
He is the God of generation-changing Red-Sea-splitting miracles. But He is also the God of aimless wilderness wanderings and daily manna collecting. And I think that’s what I need right now.