It doesn’t take too much time as an adult to learn that life really never moves out of the in-between. Much of our time as seasons come and go is spent asking ourselves, “What’s the in between I’m bridging now?” As far as I’m concerned, we’re there to stay. And I’m even more convinced that life in the in-between is what makes this place we dwell and this life we play all the more rich and full.
It’s in the in-between that we hold a unique and valuable perspective, one sunken deep in the past and yet still tasting a fragrance of the future. It’s gleaning from what we know and anticipating what we don’t. The in-between is also the place we get the choice to steward what we know to open our hands to what we don’t know, or we get to close them up, throwing the past in the trash.
It’s clear that some in betweens are more obvious, more potent, more pronounced. One of those in between seasons is engagement season. It’s a space that uniquely bridges single life and married life, not fully in one or the other, and not in the middle long enough to know how to fully hold it. And I’m learning no one else really knows how to hold it either.
My single days were one I told myself I would remember well. And I told myself that because in order to steward the in between well, we must hold the deep past open-handedly. So I dug deep into those moments that hurt. I relished in the moments that we’re free and flowing. And I told myself that I would remember what was helpful and what was not.
So here we are. Engaged and holding a new perspective. And that perspective now means I understand and have a bridge, a translation, for what all the married people were saying to me in my single days when they told me the strings of words about my single life that were never any help. So for those of you rolling your eyes in this moment, hang in there, friends. I haven’t forgotten.
Will you allow me to explain?
What they say is actually true, but all the classic clichés are really only part of the whole truth. And when we don’t have the whole truth we make stuff up. And when we make stuff up, we are dangerous to ourselves and everyone around us. So let’s not be dangerous.
Let’s start with the one I was told more times than I really care to ever hear again.
“It’ll happen when you least expect it.”
…except when you’re a single twentysomething, you always expect it. At every party, at every happy hour, at every wedding, at every pick up game of volleyball on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a constant scanning of the room to take inventory of who is there and who you haven’t noted already.
If you were or are above this phenomenon, I’m proud of you. I truly am grateful that was your experience. But for too many of us, we’re undercover on the scan all the time.
So after being there and then having a few experiences to change my mind, this is what I know to be true.
That special-forever person can actually show up when you least expect it. And here’s the second part of the story. It also can happen when you’re looking for it.
When I met Seth, we were both in the place that singles and marrieds alike hope that either they’ll find their person or that their single friends will find their person in the midst of the “I do’s,” the pictures, the feasting, and the dancing. This time for me was different. After attending about thirty weddings, I was asked to be coordinator extraordinaire for my friends’ big day. And for anyone who knows me, you know large gatherings of people together to celebrate just about anything is where I come alive – even more so when I’m allowed to get my hands in the mix to make it happen. I entered knowing that I was open to dating, open to a relationship, but also knowing full well that I was saying “yes” to something bigger and stronger than my desire to change my relationship status.
I remember it vividly. Orchestrating people and places and things to help make the big day happen for people I love dearly. I was exactly in my lane, doing exactly things I love. It was a weekend that I lived arms wide open to the ever-changing events of those days, and I mean every ever-changing event.
Because it was in that posture that I met Seth.
In between the “I do’s,” the pictures, the feasting, and the dancing, I came face to face with the person I will be marrying in just a few short weeks. In the midst of my most-alive, most open time, I was open to the person standing in front of me.
So here’s what I have to say, dating and relationships have little to do with our effort in making something happen – making another person respond in a certain way or scanning a space just right – but it has everything to do with entering into those spaces that make us come fully alive. It might be planning gatherings for friends. It might be writing. It might be doing active things. It might be exploring a new city.
What I know is that when we show up authentically and fully in one area of our lives, we have the capacity to show up in all spaces authentically and fully. Arms wide open to what the world wants to hand to us.
What it doesn’t mean, though, is that you can show up fully once or twice or even fifty times and your person will fall into your arms. It isn’t a formula for making relationships happen. Instead, it’s a posture to give, love, and serve the people around us.
Isn’t that what the gift of our lives is all about anyway? Showing up fully and whole-heartedly to the places in the world calling our name. Pouring out the unique giftings each one of us brings to our tiny corner of this earth. And sometimes when we are living with our arms wide open in one way, we hold the posture to other ways.