Walking in other peoples’ worlds is an example my father has set for me all my life. As an academic, his work has moved us from Colorado to Georgia to Morocco to South Carolina to Oklahoma and Indonesia. And, rather than rejecting, regretting, or even trivializing these moves, he saw them as part of my brother’s and my becoming. He was himself shaped by many people in multiple worlds throughout his own upbringing as a missionary kid, and he has carefully chosen and pursued a career in Islamic studies in order to continue to give himself to other worlds.
I have heard him speak to the value of such a life, and experienced many worlds myself. And now, as I attempt to navigate new worlds on my own—Boston, undergrad, and a thousand others through the lens of literature—I am finding that this broad-horizoned life my father has given me is a rich life indeed.
And yet, as I spend my time sprawled on my parents’ couch this summer, I feel strangely scattered and stalled. I feel as if I have a toe in one (or two or three) too many of those pools in C. S. Lewis’s “Wood between the Worlds.” A sort of limbo, if you will. A piece of me here, a piece of me there, and nowhere am I fully explained. I feel completely in between, and if I dwell on that notion too long it becomes frightening and paralyzing. It seems as if I am failing every world to which I belong, simply by belonging to so many.
How do I love the friends, peers, mentors, parent figures, even family, of my growing up now that I have been molded by a multitude of new worlds and an infinitude of new people since I last spent time with them? They have been transformed, too. But I have not shared that path with them nor have they shared my path with me. How do I stay grounded, without refusing to grow?
And at school, how do I share the stories of paths that have sculpted me, which my new peers did not walk with me? In neither of my current homes is there anyone who knows all of me. It feels inauthentic and half-hearted to claim love and loyalty to either place, or to the people of those places, when I feel so strongly that they know me, and the slivers of worlds I carry with me, so terribly incompletely.
I desperately crave unity across time and space, and the feeling of wholeness that (it seems to me) must come with such stability. I crave belonging to one place, and one world, and one people, and I crave complete belonging.
This summer I’ve spent some time contemplating both the joys of my incredibly rich life and my deep longing for something more. I’m wrestling with the seeming impossibility of reconciling these two desires.
There will always be this tension in my life—between wanting home and feeling driven to walk in and among so many worlds here and now. Although I was created with perfect unity between God and all humanity in view, I walk on shattered ground for now. So of course I long for the restoration of unity and wholeness. But I was reminded this week at my home church—which feels suddenly so strange and unfamiliar, and yet so good and grounding—that it is not up to me to reconcile these things. That’s not my job. That’s Jesus’s work. He has done what I cannot.
So for now, on the strength of His work and the surety of His promise, it is my job to walk with grace and humility and selflessness between parts of this scattered world. And that, although vulnerable and incomplete, and full of hurt and confusion at times, is not a life of hopeless limbo. Walking in the worlds of others is a daily effort towards our hoped-for home, full of little glimpses of that heaven, the fullness of which will surely come.
Rachel is from Norman, Oklahoma, and will be a junior at Boston College studying English and Theology. She has been attending CTK Cambridge for two years.