Living In-Between

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.

Book with science fiction scene and open doorway of light

Illustration © rolffimages • Fotolia

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 StewartShannon 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.


9 comments on “Living In-Between

  1. The hospital is trying to force you to have a c-section? Why? I just had my fifth, and my doc and I assumed that natural was the way to go. C-sections are for emergencies–right?

    I know what you mean about living in between. It’s tough to balance my own writing with homeschooling and life. I look forward to reading my books aloud to my kids when they’re old enough. 🙂

    • Oh, no, they never forced me. That’s just some of the online rhetoric I’ve seen from die-hard natural birth proponents! I’m the type to feel very pressured by articles that aren’t even directed right at me.

      YES AND AMEN to reading your books aloud to your kids. Do you anticipate designing any fun sort of curricula around them, or just keeping it fun time? (I teach at a home school co-op, so I’ll most likely be homeschooling as well one day!)

      • I guess it just depends on your doctor! As long as you hash these things out early on, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

        Curricula around my books? Well, I was one of those homeschooled kids who found that doing any kind of a study on a book instantly ruined my enjoyment of that book. Study questions? Ugh. So no, we’ll keep it strictly for enjoyment. 😀

  2. Enjoyed your thoughtful, humorous post. Had firstborn by emergency C-section I always questioned was necessary followed by being fired by same doctor when I wanted natural child birth for my second child.(Had second daughter naturally, yay! And, hard work! 🙂

    You’ve blessed us with this reminder to embrace being children of God’s home while living here as Christ’s agents of grace, truth and love. Merry Christmas!

  3. Love this, Shannon! I can so relate to these experiences, and have felt “in-between” all my life. While there are many individual paradoxes that I’ve realized are meant to be lived in the tension “in between” them, I don’t think I ever made the connection you have: living in between is true for ALL Christians and is something at the heart of our experience.

    Thank you for sharing this revelation. I feel more settled about my in-between-ness already!

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement, Teddi! I’m smiling huge right now. You were way ahead of me: I hadn’t identified the source of ANY of my long-term discomforts as “in-betweenness” until that day at the OB/GYN. (An epiphany born of hormones, maybe?) I had always just left exchanges like that thinking, “Well I guess I must be wrong, but I really don’t feel wrong.” It made me feel nervous and sick. Realizing the redeeming side of the middle way was an amazing help! (And “meeting” others who have shared the experience, like you!)

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