This month we are excited that Amanda is going to be leading us through our Book Club discussions! Amanda has been part of Book Club for awhile now, and we are looking forward to diving in with her and with all of you this month.
~ Sarah and Rachel
“It’s not a settling kind of place—it’s an in-between place.”
Ah, yes, the in-between place. It is an uncomfortably familiar space that we find ourselves in all too often as cross-cultural workers. Even as I settled in to write this post, I very much felt stuck in between so many themes and concepts to discuss from these chapters. So let’s go there!
In These Nameless Things, we don’t know much about what happened on the other side of the mountain, but we do know that it was traumatic and that Dan made the regrettable decision to leave his brother behind. It is evident that he, along with the others in the small town, are dealing with profound grief.
Dan acknowledges that on this side, it was easier to fill their days with other things than to actually process through what had happened on the other side of the mountain. “We had all tried to cover up our scars, most of us through distraction or busyness or work or fun.” Distractions are a way to avoid emotions. I think that is part of why the 2020 pandemic was so hard on people mentally. They were grieving what was lost, but were no longer able to fill their schedule to keep them from dealing with their feelings. We had to sit in an inescapable place of uncertainty. At the same time, when restrictions began to lift, there was a new discomfort as many did not feel ready to leave the new reality they had created.
As unsettling as living in the in-between place can be, we tend to find a strange comfort in the routine of it all. Dan’s community worked together to make their temporary space feel like home.
“I loved the garden because it reminded me of us, of how we were making our way on our own, how we didn’t need anyone else. It was a picture of this new life we had created outside of the mountain. I didn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave the garden, the food, the space that was so entirely ours.”
Throughout the first seven chapters, the characters are living in tension between their settled and unsettled feelings. They have created a community with rituals and routines. They are certain they do not want to return to the mountain but are unsure whether or not they want to leave this space. When Mary announces that she is ready to leave, Dan starts to panic. From my perspective, it was not the idea of losing her that unsettled him. I think it was the certainty of her decision that rocked him.
A few years ago, my family had an unexpected extended furlough. We lived week by week, hoping that circumstances would change so we could return to the field. Every time one of the other workers from our sending organization left the States for their assignment, I panicked. It was a reminder that others were moving on when I wasn’t sure whether or not we were going to be able to. They were entering into a place of certainty.
As stagnant, mundane, or as trapped as we can feel in the in-between place, I found it profound when Smucker stated, “Even here, something is happening.” We don’t always know how God is working or how we are growing at times, but we can be assured that even in the wintriest of seasons, SOMETHING is happening.
And if we are healing from grief or a tragedy, we can have faith that one day we will look back and recognize how much we have grown and how the Lord brought us through it. As Smucker put it so well:
“The strangest part of all was how beautiful that range was from this far away.”
Being in the valley is not great, but the view can be breathtaking. He takes our worst life experiences and makes them masterpieces, showcasing the beauty of His redemption.
There is so much more to unpack here, but I would love to hear your thoughts! What have been some in-between places you have experienced? How have you seen the hand of God hindsight, after coming out of barren seasons?
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:
August 10: Chapters 8-15
August 17: Chapters 16-22
August 24: Chapters 23-30
August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups