My husband and I took a long walk the other night. Two days before, our temperatures were below freezing, but the air was slightly warmer on this particular night. I strolled our neighborhood in a pair of slip-on shoes without socks, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t as chilly as I felt.
“I feel restless,” I said, needing to speak the truth that had bubbled up throughout the day.
‘Oh, yeah?” Morgan replied.
I nodded, and then we talked about something else. Because, of course I feel restless. In the last two years, the world has been upturned and pulled apart, then put back together, disassembled, stuck in a bag, flown into a dark cave, and finally dumped in the river.
Society as a whole has become an SNL skit, with everyone hunkered down in a van down by the river. If we don’t laugh about the exhaustion, we will certainly cry. (Realistically, we’ll do both.)
But what can be done about it, really? Change is constant in life with or without a pandemic, and the effort required to keep pace is unnerving.
Take, for example, the fact that my oldest child is now a legal adult. I recognized the eighteen candles on his cake last month indicated I have aged quite a bit since his birth. However, it feels like he should still spend his days pillaging the pantry and pestering me for more video game time.
Oh, wait. Those feelings exist because when his internet shuts off at 11:00 on school nights, he then pesters me for more time to game with his friends before clanging around in the kitchen making pizza at midnight. Selah.
Maybe eighteen-year-old sons are a bad example of how things change.
Let’s talk about our faces instead.
Morgan went to the gym the other day and came home to tell me about a woman he saw there. She was my age, or maybe older. He described her face to me and said he wasn’t sure what had happened to her. I googled “bad facelift,” and he nodded at the images.
‘That’s it,” he said.
It seems some days like modern medicine has given us the following choices about our faces: look old or look like someone who’s old but has spent a lot of money trying not to look old. We all pick the less painful option to carry and then accept what we can’t control.
This is how we’ve become the face of restlessness.
But it’s not just our faces. Our relationships are restless, too.
I’ve had to say goodbye to some friends recently. It’s strange, really, to let people leave your life because they’re moving, because they’re going to a new church, or because they got a new job. After a long conversation with some friends, promising we would stay as close as always even though they’re leaving, I wondered if we would all be able to keep those vows. Then, because I enjoy emotional torture, I wondered who would leave me next. We are restless people who love other restless people.
I’m trying to say that we have deep relational ties to restlessness.
Our awareness of the presence of restlessness is a curious thing. Change makes us feel it, but the tide has already pushed us out into new waters when things actually change. We can’t practice restlessness once everything is already different. But frankly, we don’t want to focus on how our kids are growing up, how our faces are sagging down, and how our friends are drifting away before the truth is unavoidable.
We may be living in a van down by the river, but no one wants to be Debbie Downer. So we let change come. We pretend we were prepared for it. We fake it ’till we make it, and we never learn what restlessness wants to teach us.
The lesson of restlessness is that the ending to every story in our life is love.
Love opens its arms up to enrapture us even when children outgrow us, even when our appearance shifts, even when friends can no longer offer us the love and care they once offered. Love isn’t always flashy and big, and it’s not always spectacular and awe-inspiring.
Love is with you, sitting where you are right now, trying to remember if you already brushed your teeth today. It’s in the wave of an unknown neighbor driving by you in your yard last weekend. Love is there in the most ordinary thing you’ve ever done because it has no home except the one you make for it. Love restlessly flows through every moment of your day.
Even when bad news looms. Even when our faces let us down. Even when injustice seems to be served up in hefty doses. Even when the storm blows in an icy and dangerous new wind. Even when people don’t love us the way we need to be loved, God has loved us to the very end. God is love. Love is where we end this smaller story and begin the next greater one.
The truth is, I did not feel less restless by the end of our walk the other night. But after a few thousand steps onward, my feet felt warmer.
I let the warmth remind me that I’m loved.
Because what else was the walk for, after all?