The practice of being in-between

by Kristin on June 22, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

I’m trying to figure out what it means to be in between—neither here nor there. How it feels is another matter, one I seem to know all too well. The tagline for my blog, after all, is “Finding myself neither here nor there.”

Just because I’m familiar with the feeling of this place, however, doesn’t mean I’m comfortable in it. In between is a place I naturally fight against and try to wind my way out of. Maybe that struggle is healthy in some ways, at some times, but right now God seems to be telling me, in no uncertain terms, to chill. To just be in this in-between place.

So here I am, in between the promise of spring and the focus of fall. In between the rush of my busiest work season and my next big project. In between the varied demands of mothering children and teenagers, and in between mothering at all, as my girls take turns heading off to a week at camp, then a vacation with their dad. I’m also in between a book proposal I was ready to start pushing into the world and the book that’s in me, waiting to be discovered and articulated.

No, I am not a fan of this place, and I do my best to explain this to God. All I hear in response is “Be still and know that I am God.” Fine.

I think of Lauren Winner’s book Still, which I am about halfway through (yes, once again in the middle). Lauren writes about post-divorce loneliness—all the ways she fights against and tries to evade it. Finally a friend suggests this:

Maybe I should try to stay in the loneliness, just for five minutes, just for ten minutes. Maybe the loneliness has something for me. Maybe I should see what that something is.

This week I’ve been trying to take this to heart, and put it into practice. I know all about that post-divorce loneliness. It is, after all, rooted in being in between. It occurs to me that being in this place, where I am right now, is also a certain kind of loneliness, compounded by the lack of distraction that comes from busily doing, moving, and acting with purpose.

So I will try to just be in this middle place and see what it has for me. The Bible is full of stories of people in in-between places. They wander and grumble and learn to trust as they move—often without knowing—toward a better place. I gather up all the grace I can muster and give myself permission to just be.

This has been harder than it sounds. I can’t just be. See? I’m impatient. I want to capture this experience—to pinpoint the teachable moment and write about it, photograph it, share it.

This morning, as I was walking, halfway between my home and the cafe (where I would sit down and…do what?), I tried just being and noticing. I loved the patterns of light and shadow on the sidewalks, leafy and organic, yet abstract and mysterious—a pattern, yet always shifting and moving. After several attempts to capture that image and the feeling it conjured, I gave up and put my camera away. Maybe it isn’t possible to illustrate what “in between” looks like, or to write about it, for that matter. Maybe that defeats the point of simply being here, still, and learning what it means for God to be God.

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  • HopefulLeigh

    Oh my word, Kristin! You’ve tapped into something I’ve been thinking a lot about the last few months. I’ve realized it’s a common theme in my writing, going back even years ago. I’ve learned so much through the “middle places” throughout my life. Even when I’m ready to move on to the next middle. I want to talk more about this when I see you in a couple of weeks (!).

  • sarah louise

    YES! Exactly. This is where I am too. Wandering in the desert.


  • Shawn Smucker

    Yes, I know this place well. Trying to just be.

  • Stacy

    I so love this! My heart understands each word. Blessings!

  • Becca (stairstotheroof)

    You’re singing my song… I’m in the same place.
    Frustrated. Tired. Anxious. Feeling like maybe I’m missing something, not analyzing things right, or maybe I missed my exit sign…

    It will be interesting to see what happens next… Whenever that is!

  • Beth

    Great insight . I love that the shadows caught your eye when you stopped in the middle. Some of this truth is almost obvious, right? Aren’t we always in the middle? always moving, growing, never sort of “there” yet? Great re,minder to live in the moment for me. Thx!

  • Sarah

    Kristin — I’m in this middle place now too. Thanks for speaking to my soul in this.

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  • Ray Hollenbach

    First of all, it could be worse: Jonah’s in-between place was the inside the belly of a great fish.

    My most melancholy part finds deep beauty in the in-between. Neither night nor day, a gloaming in which the light illuminates but does not blind. I think we are amphibians: created for paradise but living in a habitat filled with distraction and yes, even sin. Unlike Lauren Winner, I do not think the loneliness has anything to say, but I do think He comes to us in the loneliness and speaks words we could not hear anywhere else.

    Taking a walk (sans camera) is a good place to start.

  • Jonelle (warnoj)

    Summer is my in-between place and the quiet between my school terms is deafening and silent all at the same time. Letting God be God is difficult for those of us who like control. I’m using a daily guide called Jesus Calling, and it has been helpful in letting God take control.

  • China Kent

    thanks, Kristin, for this. I have been really wrestling with this subject matter this week and all I feel is irritable and depressed. It’s nice to read some of my own thoughts and feelings in your words and to remember that God is in this with me…it was really nice to read this and remember that I am not alone!

  • Kristin T.

    HopefulLeigh, I’ve been thinking about this being a common theme for both of us. It’s making me think it must inevitably be a part of the human condition, especially for humans who are seeking God. We’re always going to be in that now-and-not-yet place, aren’t we (at least in this lifetime)? Looking forward to talking more about this in person!

    sarah louise, to extend what I just wrote to Leigh, perhaps being in that desert place is part of what it means to be alive—growing and waiting all at once. Sometimes our wandering has more direction and purpose, sometimes it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere, but maybe we also need to just see what the desert has for us. (And maybe that’s not as depressing as it seems? I’m just thinking out loud…)

    Shawn, yes, you know all about transitions, don’t you? :) Praying that you feel a sense of peace and rest in just being.

    Stacy, thank you! It’s very encouraging to know I’m not alone in this place.

    Becca, you described the feeling perfectly: “Frustrated. Tired. Anxious. Feeling like maybe I’m missing something, not analyzing things right, or maybe I missed my exit sign… ” It’s been helpful for me to think about other big, transition moments in my life and to acknowledge in retrospect what God was doing—where he was taking me. That doesn’t mean I know more about what’s going on now, but it gives me faith, hope and peace.

    Beth, yes! Now that I’m reading your comment again, I see that I’ve been thinking some of the same things since I wrote this post (see the responses I wrote to HopefulLeigh and sarah louise, above). As you wrote, it’s about this: “…always moving, growing, never sort of ‘there’ yet?” Thanks for the “live in the moment” reminder.

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    I’m right here with you too, and I love that you wrote about this. Much to ponder. xo

  • Andrew Tatusko

    “I know all about that post-divorce loneliness. It is, after all, rooted in being in between.”

    This IS my in-between. It’s a redefinition of my roles as a father and what it means to be a supportive ex-spouse. There are several other overlapping in-betweens that have to do with the very core of who I think I am. Some of them are more clear than they have ever been in my entire life. Some of them are heightened and brought into sharp relief.

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  • Kristin T.

    Sarah, thank you for reading and commenting—I’m glad I can meet so many fellow pilgrims in this in-between place!

    Ray, that’s a good dose of perspective! Jonah’s “middle place” was so much more uncomfortable (and smelly). And I think you’re absolutely right about this: “I think we are amphibians: created for paradise but living in a habitat filled with distraction and yes, even sin.”

    Jonelle, yes, there definitely is a quiet that is both deafening and silent at once. That’s a great way to describe this place. Also, I love that you’re reading “Jesus Calling.” My mom bought it for me more than a year ago, but I just pulled it out and started reading it for the first time a month or two ago. You’re absolutely right about its ability to soothe and encourage letting go.

    China, it’s hard to be a mom and a wife and someone who needs to create all at once, isn’t it? Sometimes the urge to create is there but the time just isn’t; other times the necessary energy and spark are missing. Feeling in between becomes the default state! But you’re right: you’re not alone. You have plenty of company (like me!) and plenty of love and care from God.

    Katie, there’s much to ponder, indeed! This post was a perfect example of sitting down to write without a clear sense of *anything*, and learning as I wrote (and then learning even more as others shared their thoughts). Thanks for being a part of this journey.

    Andrew, divorce sure has a way of throwing into question everything you thought you knew about yourself, your family, your community, your beliefs–pretty much everything! But as you seem to be discovering, the redefining process can be a really healthy, healing, important one. (I know this post inspired you to write your own—I’m heading over there now to read it!)

  • Jessica

    Hi Kristin, just came across your blog tonight and loved this post. Like so many others have commented, the “inbetweens” and “middle places” are a big part of my story, too. Sue Monk Kidd’s book When the Heart Waits (hate the title, but the book is great!) gave me permission to just wait in the desert, in the not knowing, in the frustration and anger.

  • Kristin T.

    Jessica, I’m so glad you found your way to my blog! Thanks for sharing a bit of your own story, and for the book recommendation. I like Sue Monk Kidd’s writing, but haven’t read that one yet. Looking forward to future interactions with you!

  • The Modern Gal

    I’ve been hearing “be still and know that I am God” in my head a lot lately. I think it’s because I’ve been overdoing it though, not necessarily that I’m trapped in between. I know that place well, though. The two things that strike me about ‘in between’ is how hard it is while you’re there but how rewarding it is on the other side. Transitions are tough, but they get you somewhere bigger.