back there and right here

I was searching for something, once. When did I stop? The one looking to follow footsteps that never fit his stride, set too close or far apart, or going a direction he was never meant to go. I wore what was ill-fitting for the sake of fulfilling roles and fitting molds. I tried to be who I wasn’t in order to be who I thought I should be. And I meant it. It was true for a time. I found traces of God along the way, though my heart often wanted to be somewhere else, doing something else. I won’t say I didn’t try; I did. 

I’ve covered long distances both running towards and running from. Can it be both at the same time? I think it can. The irony is that, sometimes, the new freedom we find can be just as confining as the narrowness from which we come. True freedom is a both/and—leaving who and what we aren’t while being willing to return to that which still calls us. It’s not an either/or, you see—not only back there or just right here. God, truth, freedom, are back there too, though what they’re attached to might not be these at all. God, truth, freedom, are right here also, though perhaps not in everything you want them to be. There’s more than what’s back there—your history, your family, your upbringing, your church, your original faith. And there’s more than what’s right here—your deconstruction or reconstruction, your transformation, your new community, your changing beliefs. It’s both somewhere within and above blurred mess of it all. It’s both within and beyond the disorienting chaos. 

Who you are is somewhere in the middle, you could say, and God is within it too. Who you are is above and beyond it, and God is there too. We cannot be independent of our past and the story it tells, nor are we stuck there. We can change, but the change has a root—our history—and whatever fruit we bear is traced back to that original seed. We are both bound and free. What we come from shapes and makes who we are, but we are not determined by it. Our past is not ours alone, but our future is. We find God and ourselves in both spaces. Again, it’s neither here nor there, but in the in-between. Somewhere in the middle is where we lie. But we can also rise above and move beyond it. 

God is there in the past, that vine that wraps itself around our ankle so that we can move only so far from it. And God is there all along and here too. In the space we’ve covered and find ourselves now. In the measured distance of how far we’ve come.

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