The Space in Between

By Alex Macias

Both my husband and I are from Tucson, Arizona. It’s a land of strip malls, easy parking, and uncomplicated seasons (summer and summer light). It’s specifically the lack of seasons that makes life there so…easy. There’s no shoveling, no trading out of wardrobes, and flip flops can be worn essentially all year long and for nearly every occasion. It’s no wonder seniors retire there in droves. The eternal summer makes you forget time. Sure it’s hot, but relax – it’s a dry heat.

While we were on our honeymoon, we got news of a job in Chicago. Within two weeks, without an apartment lined up, we stumbled our way across the country in my little grey Hyundai. It was in Chicago where we experienced our first two-week stretch with no sun. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it. I felt the same way the first time I learned what 40 degrees below zero feels like. Although they’re extreme, it’s here that I’ve come to appreciate the seasons. The air smells different in fall. There’s nothing like the sight of new buds on the trees after a long frost. And if you haven’t seen the rejoicing in the streets of the city on the first 50 degree day of the year, you must. Skirts and kites everywhere. While in Tucson time blurs, in Chicago it is distinctively marked.

When Jeff and I moved in to our condo, it felt so ours. And downright luxurious. There was space.   There were possibilities. We began hosting a community group and every week we welcomed friends – our urban family – into our space for a meal and to share life. That home helped us foster lasting relationships. We bought this place before kids were even a thought in our heads. It was a fairly simple decision without the complexities of little people. I remember it clearly, “School districts? Why would we care about school districts?” But our daughter was born barely a year later. Our short-lived office became a nursery and thus began the great space squeeze. Now with our son, floor real estate is disappearing further as it’s covered in a thin layer of toy.

This month we put our place up for sale. We have no definite plans for what’s next, but we’ve discerned this much: it’s time for a change. And that is scary. Moving here was an act of faith but there was less riding on it back then. Now the weight of every decision is nearly overwhelming with two tiny dependents whose futures are shaped by this place perhaps even more than ours have been. We think about moving back to Tucson frequently. We think about how nice it would be to have a family full of free babysitters and the safety net of living in the place where we grew up. A place where we understand the school system, the ins and outs of town, the history, even the law enforcement.

I know that to think of Tucson as a stress-free haven is an illusion. Tucson wasn’t without struggle then, and it wouldn’t be without struggle if God were to direct us there now. There’s comfort in what’s known, and even after seven years, Chicago still feels a bit unknown. In many ways we’re still figuring life out. In the past, I’ve considered myself a person who embraces mystery – more comfortable with questions than answers. But I’m calling my own bluff these days. I want to know. Now. I’m kind of sick of wrestling with the constant question of whether this is the center of God’s will or the stupidest decision we’ve made yet? Both scenarios feel pretty similar.

Even with its minor annoyances, this home has given us a sense of security. It became home with each relationship formed, each life invited in. Letting it go is a real test. The question of where we will physically be in the coming months and years challenges me to trust that God is in the middle space and to be the person who gently pans for the gold of God’s leading instead of the one trying to choke the Magic 8-Ball. Is it “decidedly so” or is the “outlook not so good?!” In this liminal season, I’m trying again to trust that maybe it’s the uncertainty of the air in between – the placelessness – where we just might sense the Spirit’s presence strongest.

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  2 comments for “The Space in Between

  1. May 23, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    thanks for your post, Alex. I love the line: “to be the person who gently pans for the gold of God’s leading instead of the one trying to choke the Magic 8-Ball.” your candor is appreciated.

  2. Cathy Norman Peterson
    June 5, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    What a great reflection on the complexities of how we find/wrestle with our identity in our space. (And I love the “I’m calling my own bluff” line–that sounds like me!)

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