Monday, June 17, 2013


I am a planner. I always have been and probably always will be. I keep ideas running through my brain until I have a moment to set them down or work them out. Even this post is a result of planning. I've ruminated on it for a couple of weeks already, and only now have carved out the time to work out my thoughts on being in limbo. Again.

Limbo is a unique turn of phrase. Originally it was the name of the place where good people went after death if they were not believers in Christ. Early Catholics considered "Limbo" to be where the Patriarchs gathered until Jesus "descended into Hell" (The Apostle's Creed). In purely etymological terms, it is a Teutonic word meaning "border" or "hem". It actually is the same root word as the English "limb".  In that sense, Limbo (or "out on a limb") aptly describes where I happen to be right now and for the near future.

I do not have a teaching contract for next year.

You read that correctly. As of this writing, I do not have any lesson plans to prepare, nor do I have any income to anticipate. I've been here before. And Limbo is just as uncomfortable now as it was the last time. And the time before. And all the times before that, including the times I perched on an actual tree limb to read books in peace as a child.

I didn't expect to be in Limbo this time around. I didn't see it coming. The path to Limbo this trip is not worth detailing, because however I arrived, I am here, looking out at an uncertain future, wondering what lies just beyond my field of vision from my branch.

As a planner, I've taken some actions. I've proposed a new class. I've applied to graduate school. I've taken a job at a bakery where I educate people on gluten and Celiac disease while doling out delicious tidbits. I am determined to wait here in Limbo until I know what's next.

It isn't comfortable. It isn't easy. But, I have learned a few things from my previous experiences:

1. Limbo isn't the end. It is the edge of something. The something is indistinct, and perhaps even completely unexpected, but it is there, just out of sight.

2. Limbo is temporary. Even the ancients understood that Limbo (or Limbus patrum) was a holding cell of sorts, where people went before the Messiah freed them. It was not a place of punishment; just waiting.

3. Limbo can be beneficial. Call it a rest between intensities. What's past is known; what's future is unknown, what's now is a break, a respite, a time when nothing in particular can go horribly wrong.

4. Limbo is a place and time to learn. It is quiet here. There are no demands. There are no expectations. There are no master calendars calling for attention to deadlines.

5. Jesus taught that, even in Limbo, there's no reason for worry:

 For this reason I say to you,do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the [p]air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  (Matthew 6:25-29)

That's  reassuring. It makes Limbo so much less difficult to know that God is Sovereign, He has a plan, and He knows what I need. More importantly, He knows when I don't need something, and He takes it away no matter how much I cry about the loss. Not having a contract for the fall surprised me. I cried. I analyzed. I thought and planned and considered and contemplated. BUT, I did not worry. He makes the day lilies in my front yard glorious for one short day. The gardenias and jasmine flowers offer fragrance for just a few days of the year. The cardinals and finches visit my backyard and build nests whether or not I have seed in the feeder. If He provides for these little things, I know He has a plan for my life.

Even when I am in Limbo.

1 comment:

Carol Heinz said...

Good thoughts Steph..I'm sorry about the contract....