the narrow place: i worry about the wrong things

This past weekend, I took a little trip down to good ol’ Greenville, SC. I start classes this week and needed to take the opportunity to get out of town while I still can (even though I’ve planned to spend 2-3 weekends a month in SC already…) and start warming up to my future home city. It was a quick trip; I stopped in Asheville on the way down, spent the night in Greenville with my friend Stephanie, and headed to Columbia the next day to see my friend Heather, who is fresh off a plane from Africa and about to board another one to Costa Rica.

It was nice and relaxing. Good to get off of the mountain, good to see people who know and love me well (and are just as excited as I am about my impending move), and just plain good to be back in South Carolina. Stephanie and I had lunch at Panera on Friday (because I don’t like any other food) and I made her go to the one in the mall (so that I could stop at Palmetto Moon and grab some SC swag. Apartment décor, you know how I do.) I gallivanted around the mall for a little while that afternoon before it was time to head down to Columbia, and of course made a stop at Williams-Sonoma because I have a kitchen things problem. Somewhere between there and a smattering of other stores, I stopped into J. Crew just because it’s good to be in a real one and not the outlet one. I looked around and remembered why I like the outlet one so much though, and that’s because a scalloped shift dress wouldn’t cost $168 there. Off I went to the clearance section, and picked out a couple of knit tees, a sweater, and grabbed some coasters at the checkout. Coasters. I don’t need any more clothes, and I definitely don’t need any more coasters.

I left the mall, went to dinner in Columbia (so, so good), made the 3 hour drive back to Boone, unloaded my car in several trips, and noticed that I was missing the shopping bag from J. Crew. I started to flip out a little, mostly out of confusion and bafflement. And mostly because the contents of said bag were quite an investment when they all added up together, despite their humble beginnings in the clearance section (gets me every time). Anyway, I searched my car, checked inside my Williams-Sonoma bags (you never know with me), the whole deal. The next morning, I woke up and called ten places, including but not limited to the mall management office, security office, guest services department, Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew, Francesca’s, and anywhere else I had stopped. No luck. I was so upset, so worried, so mad at myself for being so careless.

Hey, you know what doesn’t matter?
That I misplaced a shopping bag.
That contained stuff I didn’t need, like a linen tee with gold pineapples printed all over it.
Who needs that?

And it got me thinking about my priorities.
They’re pretty off-kilter lately.
And mostly revolve around the accumulation of stuff.
I’ve been here before.

Why am I not worried about the fact that I can’t remember the last time I went to church here? That’s a real thing. I like church, so this is not something I’m happy about or proud of, but it’s real. This is mostly due to the fact that I tend to travel on weekends, but I’m also here a lot of the time and could go, but a lot of my friends here have switched to another one and I don’t want to go to that one, so I just…don’t go at all. Or listen to a podcast. Which is good, but not the same thing. Not a worthy replacement.

I move to South Carolina in 123 days (in case you haven’t seen my tweets) and I think I’m using that as an excuse to put everything on hold.
I don’t need to invest in people here because I’m moving soon.
I tried to invest in a community of people here and it went really badly and hurt me deeply and I don’t want to do that again.
I don’t need to meet my neighbors because I’m only here for 5 months.

A good (and by that, I mean one of the best) friend called me last night. She knows me really well and can read me like a book, so when I told her a little bit about all this, she said, “Well, you know, wherever you are, you need to be all there. You still need to love the people around you. You need it and they need it.”

She has a point. I’m not me when I’m not serving people somehow. I’m not me when I’m isolated. And that’s what I’ve started to do again. Yikes.

I am absolutely not being all here right now. I’m freaking out about “what if I’m 30 and not married?” and “where am I going to live in Greenville?” and “will that finally flip my happiness switch?” and “what if it doesn’t?” and my stupid shopping bag with the stupid pineapple shirt.
I am not here.
And you know what? I don’t want to be.

This has been a painful place and a painful year, and I would much rather be 123 days in the future and 158 miles down the road. I would much rather be writing about adventures in dating instead of adventures in loneliness. I would much rather be 3 hours south, starting that chapter instead of this one, where I feel like I belong instead of where I feel like I don’t belong.

I would much rather just close my eyes tightly and start running and not stop until it’s 2014 because that means I won’t be here anymore. I actually get teary-eyed when I think about that.
It’s a big yearning.

It’s not necessarily true, though, that the pain will stop once I cross the state line. It’s not true to think that about turning a certain age or reaching a certain milestone, either.

And so I want to stop holding onto my idea that once 123 days have passed, I’ll be happy. Or that once I’m married, I’ll be fine. Neither of those are necessarily true or untrue, but they’re dangerous things to lean on. It's not wrong to hope for them, but they’re not promised.

What’s really true is that I’m going to be okay and I’m going to be fine because of Jesus. What I know, but don’t always feel, is that my identity and joy come from knowing him. What’s also true is that knowing Christ doesn’t mean that you’ll get your pain taken away faster than someone else will. And it also means that life is not a game show with a score card, where if I’m good enough (or whatever) I’ll get what I want.

Yesterday I caught myself thinking, “Well I have to pray and really mean it, and pray well enough, or it won’t work,” or “If I pray hard enough, I’ll get this outcome.”

Oh good, so I’ve resorted to talking to God like He’s Santa Claus.
“If I really believe…”

 

There’s this song called “The Narrow Place” by Lauren Chandler and it talks about how God is with us between the sorrow and the joy, between the already and the not quite yet. He’s in the middle and the mundane. He’s in the hard places, the narrow places, the tough places, the boring, everyday places, the long drives home and the sadness that hits for no reason, the yearning and the trouble, the not-so-noteworthy moments. In South Carolina, but also in Boone.

I’m thankful that it’s not:

God will be with you in 123 days when you move to Greenville.
Or when you feel like you have your life figured out.
Or when there’s a ring on your finger.
Then you’ll be okay, Amanda.

No.
I am okay now because He is here now.
I will be okay even though I’m feeling lonely.
Even though weird things keep happening.
And good things keep seeming to be withheld.
Even though I lost my gold pineapple shirt.
He is here even though I don’t exactly want to be.
He’s going to be there in 123 days, but He’s also here now.
He’s offering me comfort in my distress now, if I will only wake up and be present to receive it.

So here’s what I’m resolving to do:

I’m going to take my Wofford friend to dinner who just moved here for grad school and got settled today, because I want her to feel like she has a person here who gets what the transition is like.

I’m going to make dinner for a houseful of sweet Young Life and friends-of-Young Life girls because they’re, like I said, sweet and it’s more fun to cook for a houseful of friends than it is for your lonely self.

I’m going to pray like I’m talking to a best friend and not like I’m talking to the Wizard of Oz.

I’m going to remember all the other times when life felt like this, and that every single other time, God pulled through for me. And also that I learned something important from all those seasons.

I’m going to try really hard to be here, even on the days when it is rainy and cloudy and grey, and the yearning for something different hits hard, as it does.

A muttered, hurried prayer at the end of the day.
A moment of gratitude when the view from my porch takes my breath away.
And I remember Who made all that beauty.
Remembering, “You are going to be just fine.”
Remembering that I am not alone, and I am held, and I am loved.
(And choosing to believe it.)

It’s a start.