Guest Blogger: Shannon Stewart
On the way home from an OB/GYN visit, I got sick of it.
Not the stellar hospital at which I chose to give birth. Not my informed, well-researched decision to try for natural childbirth. But trying to hold both of them together, one beside the other.
Hospital staff could be insultingly dismissive or even antagonistic toward natural childbirth. Natural childbirth enthusiasts warned of the devilish schemes hospital staffers would use to “force” a C-section on me (gasp!). I had thought that natural childbirth in the safe environment of the hospital was the best fit for me, but mostly it didn’t feel like it fit at all. It was hopelessly between two worlds that each wanted badly to exclude one another.
My mounting frustration, though, came from realizing I’d been living in that uncomfortable pattern through most of my life. Have you?
I felt it in high school, where I was an Honors/AP student as well as a dedicated gamer. I felt it in college, when I attended my beloved liberal-leaning Christian school but rediscovered grace and joy at my thriving conservative-leaning church. I felt it in grad school, where some professors were wont to take casual potshots at Christians (as I sat in their classes wondering whether to speak up and give them a target with a face).
And of course, as an aspiring writer, I have lived for years with another world always hovering at the edges of my vision. For over a decade, the thing on my mind most—Callia and its children—has been the thing I most avoid bringing up at gatherings. I don’t want it to be dismissed by friends or misunderstood by family members. I have struggled with the feeling that my writing dreams belong to a wide-eyed high schooler, not to a mother of two or a dedicated academic.
So driving home that day, realizing that this pattern had been a huge source of internal discomfort, I wanted to say, “That’s it! I’ve had it! I am DONE feeling this pressure to devote full allegiance to one ‘side’ or be seen as an idiot/enemy!” (My actual thoughts were not so eloquent, and with my being pregnant at the time, they probably involved blubbering on the phone to my husband.)
Over the next few days, the temptation was to become defensive, insisting on my way just as strongly as the people who made me feel like my middle ground was out of touch. To avoid squirming under others’ scrutiny, I would become brashly confident, and then they would be afraid to disagree with or judge ME. Ha!
By God’s grace, I didn’t do this, either. That week He helped me realize that in-betweenness, discomfort and all, has its blessings. For one, it is good to be humble, and one way to practice meekness is not to insist on broadcasting my way as the way. It is better to be weird than arrogant.
But the other, and most important, epiphany was this: stuck between two worlds is how all Christians always live. We dwell here, in the world, with its beauties and cultures and temptations and distractions. But this isn’t our true home. Our true home waits for us with God in a world we have never seen. It’s hard to remember we’re just sojourners and not throw all our lot in here. It’s also hard not to become defensive and self-righteous when speaking about our true home to people who are dismissive or antagonistic.
And we shouldn’t be too comfortable here. If creation is groaning for the unveiling of the glory of the children of God, surely the children of God themselves shouldn’t be metaphorically camped out in La-Z-Boys, eating Cheez-Its and binge-watching Netflix.
Balancing our relationship to these two worlds is tricky, just like it’s hard to balance writing Callia and my “real” jobs. And like navigating birthing plans (or anything related to mothering, really), you will find people on both sides who say you’re wrong just because you’re trying to find that balance. So living between political extremes, or between writing and “real life,” is just a smaller version of the real battle all Christians fight daily. It’s uncomfortable, sure. But it’s the nature of reality. I don’t want to reject it; in fact, it’s impossible to reject.
My temptation is to resist that awkward feeling of in-betweenness at all costs. But I’ve been able to accept it by realizing it’s good practice for life. It’s a chance to be humble, to stretch my balance muscles, and to look forward to that time when we will be truly at home once and for all, torn no longer between two worlds.
Shannon Stewart is a high school English teacher with an MA in English Literature still curled in its mail tube in her closet. The real prize, her love for British fiction, is on exuberant display in her classes each week. So far, she’s completed several of her life goals: naming her two children after fictional characters, getting her husband to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and completing her first WIP, the fantasy Callia-Born, this year.