Living in the Space Between

If you are a missionary kid, or a third culture kid as they were called last time I checked, you are used to living in the space between, between places and cultures and perhaps even between faiths. I once beleived it was a unique space, unique in its blessings and its pain. I believed that those of us who occupied it were special. And I displayed some of that curious combination of condescending pride and insecurity that is common to so many of us. I have long since learned to put my situation into context, by understanding that everyone is living in the space between in so many different ways. It is a simple, but incredibly helpful, observation.

That is not to say that there aren’t some interesting things about my specific story, which spans two cultures and nations in my very blood. And, it is not an easy place. I often tell people that I think that one has to, in some fundamental way, choose between the cultures. It is just emotionally hard to stradle the two. And, as I reflect on that statement itself, I know that it is both true and a cop out. It is a cop out because I am too much of a comfort seeker, seeking to place a period where God may be placing a comma or an ellipsis. Given my own way, I know I would choose comfortable things (many of which are Good with a capital “G”) and run from places of indeterminancy and transition. I am only just beginning to learn that I should never expect to leave these places this side of death or the eschaton. I really haven’t believed as yet that we are to be strangers, that despite blessings that God may bring my way, that I should not put my stock and my hope in those things, which I am so, so, so prone to do.

Last week I brought my first CCM album in many years by getting Caedmon’s Call’s new CD “Share the Well” which musically documents their recent trips to Ecuador and Brazil and India. I highly recommend it. Musically, at first, I thought some of the songs don’t join their Eastern components with midwestern pop folk quite as organically as could be hoped for, but upon repeated listenings I think they work very well. Lyrically, the CD is a strong call to share both the Gospel and resources that is pretty hard core. My church is getting into this perspective very heavily also, so this is all a convergence of sorts.
Finally, what I began to do when I started this post: two poems about living in the space between based on a journey I took to Pakistan 11 years ago.

nocturne in limbo (30,000 feet)
this strange stillness soothes
the unending muted roar of engines
envelopes and subdues me
like the roaring of a monsoon on a tin roof
remembered in warm sleep
this stillness seeps
through this inch thick oval of glass
from the moon filled atmosphere beyond
that holds separate two seas of black
and i hang in between and ache for each
above
the stars for which no earthly metaphor will do
burn their coldness into me
and something
some longing for eternity
quivers and answers
deep unto deep
below
a cozier vastness beckons me
the desert blackness exhales middle-eastern heat
and in the galaxies of light
that island its entirety
lovers softly sleep
ensconced each in each

return

i stand and breathe
my last few gulps of air duty-free
shuffling up the aisle
of this airlock between atmospheres
soon i will be complete
torn into a duality
that appears unseamed in separate hemispheres
that tears each time they meet
at the touching of my sleeping eastern flesh with east
i walk from the door
and then I am me
in ways that i have not been for years
as thick warm eastern air enfolds me
and fills my lungs
displacing stale indifference
and leaves me coughing sputtering
amidst these warm embraces
invading my protesting western space
amidst these cluttered streets
breaking life into me
more honest and complete
it may take some time to breathe