The night before I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time, I was midway through loading the dishwasher when I burst into tears. Most of my stuff was crammed into a moving van, and my room was bare apart from a blanket and my laptop. I felt displaced, homeless, because I wasn’t “in” my parents’ house anymore but I also was not “in” my new home yet.
I haven’t felt that way again until this past year, when it seems like God has taken control of my life and done a major overhaul, throwing out a lot of my things and breaking my interest in others and leaving me standing once more, tearful, in the kitchen, not knowing where I fit in. Much of this came about because we joined another church, one more dedicated to growth and evangelism with all its nuts and bolts attached. I had grown up in the church and considered myself a Christian, even had little religious experiences now and again, but I’m convinced that I did not really become saved until becoming a part of this congregation, because in the last nine months I have changed more than in the course of my entire life.
When you are in-between lives, it isn’t fun. You have left a place where you were comfortable, where you felt safe and at home, and been thrown into the outer reaches, where nothing from your past life feels quite right but you are also uncertain what is intended to replace them. I was very comfortable with who I was, in the opinions I held, in my theology and my hobbies… and now many of those things have been taken away from me. I not only feel as I have been made homeless in a sense, but I also feel like I don’t entirely recognize the person I see in the mirror every morning. I like her fine, but she isn’t entirely me. My friends don’t recognize her either. Most of them do not understand what is happening, or why I am drifting away from them. I have said things in recent months that made them stare at me like I’d grown three heads and say, “I never thought that would come out of your mouth.” It’s a major change, but it is also a good one.
My desires have changed, my dreams have changed, my spiritual needs have changed… and a lot of the things that filled my heart with so much joy, that used to comfort and satisfy me, no longer do so. So what do you do when God rearranges your life and for the moment, you neither fit into the new existence nor the old one? It’s tempting to hide in the old life, to try and force happiness out of your former hobbies and habits. But as Frodo says in the final moments of The Lord of the Rings, “you cannot go back.” He has been through Middle-earth, to Mount Doom and back again, and he is not the same hobbit as when he started. None of them are. Their lives have been forever changed.
In that light, what do you do in that in-between place where God has taken away so many of your former superficial fascinations but not yet presented you with spiritual things to fill them with? You wait. You let him do his remodeling in your life, and you trust that the outcome will be all right. It is hard to let go of your old self, of the things that once meant so much to you but now don’t even interest you, of the emotions that you held onto, and said, “God can change everything else about me, but not this.”
Every butterfly is far more beautiful than the caterpillar it once was. Yet in order to become a butterfly, the caterpillar, who was once merely occupied with eating as much as it could, has to form a cocoon and let its entire insides liquefy and rearrange themselves into a form that now does God’s will in adding beauty to the world and spreading pollen. For many of our early years, you and I are caterpillars, wholly consumed with ourselves and only interested in what benefits us, but then we reach that point where we mature in the faith and our insides are rearranged. It is a painful and scary process, but it does not last forever, and we can have faith that we will emerge beautiful and useful for the Kingdom.
In the meantime, it may feel like we are homeless but we aren’t. We are exactly where God needs us to be, and He hasn’t forgotten about us. He loves us as a caterpillar, and as goop, and as a butterfly too. So if like me, you are in the goop stage, hang on. It won’t last forever.