“How are things now that you’re back from your trip?” I asked a good friend after our work day ended. This friend has a demanding executive-level job, supports a family of six, and recently returned from a much-needed vacation. “With everything that’s going on at work, it amazes me that you can keep it so together.”
He said, “I’m good. I feel like I’m keeping it together for the most part. The hardest and most stressful time is in the gaps. You know, in the really quiet moments – like when I’m on the train, or waiting in line for something, or drifting off to sleep.”
The individual frames of our conversation click through the filmstrip of my mind this morning as I run past an old man quietly fishing at the lake. The sun has just peeked over the horizon. “It’s in the gaps…” These words come fleeting back to me as I watch the man from afar. I wonder what he’s thinking about – all by himself, bundled up, waiting for some hint of a fish on the line. The sun’s rays are shining on the back of his yellow jacket and suddenly I feel incredible sorrow for him. I feel palpable grief rise up into my throat.
Perhaps I feel this ache because I, too, have a very hard time living in the gaps. It’s in the moments where I am not working on a big project, returning emails, helping kids with homework, scheduling appointments, paying bills and essentially getting lost in the busyness of life that I feel alone and unworthy. It is in the gaps where I am confronted with my true self. Those moments where I have to either accept or reject the person God created. It’s not the place I would invite anyone. Suddenly, I realize I don’t feel sorry for the man because he’s fishing alone. I feel sorry for the man because, if he is anything like me, he’s fishing in the gaps. And if this is the case, he’s not in a kind place.
Where did I recently read about living in the gaps? It was just the other day – even before hearing my friend use the term. I’ve only run for about 45 minutes and am less than two miles from the car, but I feel as if I’ve run for most of the morning. Please God, don’t allow me to get lost in the gaps out here today. I’ve learned that if I run hard enough, I can usually sidestep them. Then, as I’m heading up the last hill, I remember where I’d recently read about experiencing the gaps. It was on Twitter.
Bronwyn Lea’s blog post entitled, “A Letter to the One Who is Failing,” had me at the first line. It was written in the form of a letter with the salutation reading, “Dear Weary One,” and it continued with:
“I see you. I see you breathing deeply, trying not to cry. I can see you’re discouraged, disheartened, dismayed. I see you’ve tried, are trying. I see that you wish I could not see: it would be better not to have witnesses to your failure, right?”
As I run, I cannot remember everything Bronwyn wrote, but I remember thinking, “The author knows me – the me that feels like a failure at work amongst the young, over-achievers, the me that feels disgraced over my divorce, the me that feels shame since childhood, the me who is afraid of a life not fully lived.” But, I do remember very specifically that she writes about the gaps – she calls them hard spaces.
“It is in these hard spaces that we dig deepest, discern and test our callings, and in which we learn to lean on the Spirit.”
What I love about her blog post is that Bronwyn doesn’t just weep in the hard spaces. She doesn’t break down or quickly fill them up with activities. She doesn’t leave herself stranded and desperate in the gaps. Instead, she reaches for God to provide comfort and hope. The author works it out through faith, and grace, and a quiet knowing that she is not alone.
“Let’s not give up: we are in the care of the God of Second Chances. He is Faithful to complete the work He has started in us.”
I am grateful to those who write hard and clear about what hurts – using the timeless poetic phrasing of Ernest Hemingway. It’s those brave writers, like Bronwyn, who help me see life from a less lonely vantage point – through the lens of a loving and forgiving God who will never leave me or forsake me.