The church is dark still. You’re early and someone left the window open.
You didn’t want to come this early, but you couldn’t help it. You’re in charge of the kids this morning, and you knew that, and so you didn’t sleep right, because it’s the kids.
It’s nothing new. Waking up on Sunday, driving to church, walking the parking lot, saying a prayer, sometimes half-breathed, but always fully meant. “This is for you, God. Let this be for you.”
A year ago this was exciting. This was all new, all fresh.
You thought: This is a brave church seed. We are practically missionaries up here. Do big things. Do hard things. And I’m a teacher. I get to mold young minds. I get to show God’s love, if you will let me, God. So, not my will… but, please, let me.
And you did, with all your heart. You prepared, you got your eight hours, you prayed for this moment specifically, and for the kids by name.
Sometimes you still do.
But mostly you just go, now, like this is the climb – you are neither just setting off in the foothills, nor hurtling to the summit. You are in it now.
Like the second night of the school play. You go because you went before, and this is now just what you do. This is who you are, a part of you that doesn’t have a name, but is still an identifier. This is how people know you. As this role, and only sometimes as an actual person.
They know you as the guy who teaches and smiles and who the children generally like, but sometimes make fun of because he’s an adult, he’s the teacher, he deserves it.
You might as well be smoke rising, because you didn’t choose this direction. You just went.
* * *
Coworkers drip into the office, hanging their parkas and scarves and odd mittens on the rack. How have you never noticed those mittens before?
“Good morning, to you!”
Maybe it’s a good morning. Maybe it’s not. It is the Midwest, and it is December, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good morning. So you nod, but smile a little less than usual. You’re not sure why. Just one of those days.
Here, you might as well be a machine — to some of them, you actually are a machine, just turbines pumping and gears grinding. You spend the day the way you did yesterday and always, calculating differences and obeying commands. It’s hard to say how you got here — could the train really have stopped at your front door? – but you are here somehow. You are here again. Until Saturday. Until it starts again.
* * *
“Let’s watch a movie,” she said.
“Yeah, let’s,” you said.
You haven’t seen this one before, but you feel like you have. It feels good, but not great. Right, but not perfect. Normal — just normal.
* * *
Today it is boring. Today you are stagnant, standing idle while the world whips by in taxis and sound waves. But you realize this doesn’t bother you, at least not now. Because there is something strangely beautiful, strangely soothing about normalcy.
And you know that not too long ago you were jacked about it. I’m going to be a teacher and I caught a big break and Yeah, she’s about it. What is more, you know that tomorrow — or someday soon — life will ramp up again. So you decide to enjoy this time while it’s here, not because there is anything particularly exciting about it, but because it is slow and steady, even if that means monotony.
But what if nothing cool ever happens again? you think. What if the spark won’t return?
You know it will, of course, because it always does. But what if it’s a long way off?
Then enjoy that, too. Some of life is high-action and some is doldrums, and a lot is just sailing along. So sail. Count to a trillion, but know right now you won’t get very far. Because even in the rain there is a rhythm, and even in the calm, open sea there is a view.
And use this time to prepare and to sleep a little sleep and to pray. Because even this won’t last forever. And you will be thankful for it the next time, until you want or need a change of scenery, after which you will be thankful for it again.
This is your life, up and down and mostly flat. This is everyone’s life, and don’t think it isn’t. And thank God it is not only one thing, for he could have just as easily designed it to be eternally, vista-less, first-gear walking, but he didn’t. And maybe, actually, he couldn’t have. Just not his style.
Instead there is a mystery. Sometimes scary, sometimes serotonin blowing up all up and down you.
And this is your religion, to trust him always.
Because inside of you are futures — futures you do not know and don’t have names for. Nobody here could ever know them until they happen. And then it’s too late.
But you trust. And you go.