Yes, most of life is in-between, but friendships give us the necessary reminder that everything will be all right.
I will admit that in it is in the writing of this article that I have few words, that I don't know where I'm going, that I have no agency and mission for what I want this article to be about. And that's a lot for me to admit, because I'm usually a person with a lot of ideas, a lot of ideas that I can flesh out into well-developed articles, but now I'm just at a loss and confused.
Recently, I have been driving for Lyft in Atlanta. The work has been rewarding. The money is pretty good. I often come back to my house to hang out with my friends in between receiving customers and rides, and I've learned a lot and had great conversations with many of the people I have driven around Atlanta, people I would frankly never have med otherwise.
But I lay here, the hour late around midnight tonight just exhausted, just at a complete loss of trying to find meaning within the experiences of my daily life nowadays. I will venture out and say that perhaps the meaning was within the conversations I've had with my friends at home or my Lyft passengers in the car, but I know that is not always the answer.
Meaning requires reflection, and recently, perhaps, I've had neither the time nor the means for true self-reflection into these daily experiences that just happen too fast.
I listened to a Tim Keller sermon while I was driving about the story in the Old Testament about Ruth, a character in the Old Testament. The sermon was titled "An Immigrant's Courage," a testament to Ruth and her courage in entering Israel as a Moabitess and immigrant into a world where she would be an outcast and second-class citizen, and what that means for Ruth us in this world of incredible division.
Ruth, a widow, came into the spiritual and physical world of Israel to teach us that friendships can change the world and reach across spiritual and cultural barriers. Ruth married Boaz and won him over with her kindness. Boaz was someone who was labeled a "kinsman-redeemer" in Israel, a prosperous man in Bethlehem who wielded much power as a wealthy landowner of Judea.
The way that both Boaz and Ruth relate to Jesus in the New Testament, according to Keller, is that the two of them point to Jesus, "our true Redeemer. Once we realize that, we can ourselves reach across barriers to engage spiritual friendships and be true disciples of Jesus."
I thought and reflected about this sermon for quite some time after listening to it, wondering if, like Boaz and Ruth who crossed cultural and ethnic boundaries, I have succeeded in engaging in true spiritual relationships as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In some ways, I have, and in many ways, I haven't. I expect that most of the people reading this article are in the same boat.
I will be one of the first people to admit that I am a sinner and haven't exactly reached out to the people who I believe need an extra hand, the friends who I know are going through a rough time and suffering. In my times of great need and trials, I often forget that other people are undergoing similar trials, and we can mutually benefit as friends in spiritual, practical, and personal ways if we shared our ways of suffering from one another. No, that doesn't mean it's easy to any extent. But in the near future, I will endeavor to do so in ways I have not recently, under the illusion that I can handle all my problems alone and without any help.
Nowadays, I tend to be a person with high levels of internal conflict and tension all the time. I'm confused and wrestling with my circumstances and how God is helping me through those circumstances. Yes, Israel means to "wrestle with God," but if I'm wrestling continuously on an unsustainable basis, that's also a problem. I don't think I pray enough, or that I spend enough time in my day devoted to solitude and reading the Bible. Sometimes, I pray for my circumstances to change. I know that it's wrong, but I do it anyways, yet Keller writes in his book Prayer, that "It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul's prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances."
I do find Paul's prayers that never wish for changes in circumstances to be remarkable, even inspirational. I just don't think I'm there yet. I'm in a state of in-between-ness, and Timothy Kreider, an essayist with the New York Times that I find particularly insightful, wrote an essay to Medium titled "Life Is What Happens In-Between," a message that tells us that stability exists mostly in memory.
Life at its most natural state has no structure or stability, a state of in-between-ness that is "so terrifying you can't state it for long." Habits and familiarity allow us to be comfortable and feel like we're not falling off a cliff all the time. According to Kreider, chaos means abyss or chasm, and to be in a state of chaos would etymologically mean we're constantly in a state of falling off a cliff.
To stay sane, we need a home. We need a routine, both things that are the order to counter the chaos of our lives. Kreider acknowledges that some people might not live like this, and this may be just the artist lifestyle that sees the chaos as a source of creativity. But I live a life of chaos, often, one where I know God is the conductor pulling all the strings, but also one where God is pulling a lot of strings at once, where I'm someone going into a lot of different directions
"The In-Between is so nerve-wracking not only because of its uncertainty but its unwelcome freedom," Kreider writes. "Each of these transitional periods sends me reeling back to Square One."
Every day when I drive for Lyft, I don't know if I'll get enough rides to make enough. Some days I'll make $30. Other days I'll make $150 and get lucky, and I understand that most of what factors into how much I make is just luck, chance, and other time commitments, but I can't help feeling that there's something mystic behind the fact that I can be driving around Midtown, Atlanta, frustrated at my lack of progress, while I can be home for only a couple minutes, making myself a sandwich, and suddenly get a ride.
The pattern in my life seems to be like this: things don't work out when I expect them to, but they work out when I don't expect them to. That seems like a cardinal rule, one that likely won't change. The easiest thing to say and strive for in this stage of transience is then to not have any expectations and not desire any blessings, but that goes against my nature. I just have to acknowledge that.
"Transience wasn't just a peculiarity of [our] own upbringing; it turns out to be the reality of life, for all of us. Everything is contingent, ephemeral," Kreider writes.
And so it is true that in this time of chaos, lost-ness, and confusion, that this is just the way it is. Like Kreider, "almost every aspect of my life is up in the air." The only parts of my recent life, if I were to look back on, that offer me islands of order and stability within the chaos are in my friendships when I finally take the time to share a meal with these friends or talk with them.
I have a sense, from my conversations and from the peace I have been with my friends that they share a similar sense of chaos. But it is in these times that I feel stability because we share our chaos and are with each other in the midst of our personal mountains and battles, whether we know it or not.
Friendships, I believe, are what is going to change the world in our time of deep division, because they changed the world of Ruth and Boaz because they changed my life because Jesus changed and redeemed his world through friendship. Yes, most of life is in-between, but friendships give us the necessary reminder that everything will be all right.